ANDOVER, MASS. (WHDH) - The Andover School Committee voted unanimously Thursday night to delay start times for all students beginning next school year.

Prior to the vote, parents had the opportunity to express their opinions on changing the start time for middle and high school students to 8:15 a.m. instead of 7:45 a.m. and elementary students to 9 a.m. instead of 8:45 a.m.

Proponents of the change cite the health benefits of later start times for adolescents responding to biological changes in sleep patterns and circadian rhythms during this stage of development.

High school students were already on this new schedule during the pandemic and their parents said they have already noticed a difference.

“Throughout the pandemic, we heard from many students, staff, and families, expressing concerns about student well-being and mental health,” Andover School Committee Chairperson Susan McCready said. “We share in these concerns and today’s vote affirms our extensive efforts that puts the focus on students first in Andover Public School policies and operations.”

Those who oppose the change, mostly parents of elementary students, say the study that indicated the health benefits of a later start time did not consider kids their age or consider the impact on working parents.

“My husband and I both work full-time jobs,” one parent said. “With this change, we are looking at years of additional childcare costs, additional challenges, and the loss of being able to see our children off to school.”

McCready said in a statement, “We recognize that any deviation from what the schedule has been for many years in Andover will affect everyone, and believe that the science, balanced with the feedback over these last years, will bring benefits to our students’ learning and overall mental and physical health.”

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