Annie Wright Schools will push back start times next year so students can sleep, exercise

High school students at Annie Wright private schools in Tacoma will get more sleep and exercise next year.

Starting this fall, the start time of the academic school day for grades 9-12 will be pushed back four days a week from 8 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. Mondays will still start at 8 a.m.

Leaders of the private school system made the final decision in May, citing health benefits for adolescents, including improved physical and mental health and academic achievement.

“The research is overwhelmingly clear,” Jake Guadnola, the Upper School for Girls director, said in a press release. “Teenagers need more sleep. They also need more exercise. With this schedule, we will accomplish both. I believe it will fundamentally change the way school (and life) feel to our students.”

Students who play after-school sports or do organized physical activities outside of school may sleep in or use the time before classes start at 9:15 a.m. for study hall.

Students who choose not to play after-school sports will spend that time completing their physical education requirements, said Lisa Isenman, spokeswoman for Annie Wright Schools.

Annie Wright already has a full-sized gym, weight room and dance studio and will open an additional gym and high school regulation-sized swimming pool this fall. Currently, 225 students are enrolled in Annie Wright’s two Upper Schools — Annie Wright’s high schools.

“Teachers will still arrive at school before 8 a.m. to supervise students, help with homework and attend meetings. To make up for lost academic time, the day will end 10 minutes later — at 3:10 p.m. — before students move on to activities and sports,” Annie Wright Schools said in a statement.

Currently, Annie Wright officials anticipate the only change in the budget to be funds for an extra bus.

The idea for later start times was spearheaded by Gaudnola two years ago. A formal process began in September to gather input. There was overwhelming support, the private school system said.

The announcement comes as students and leaders push for later start times at Tacoma Public Schools.

Tacoma Public Schools freshman Connar Mon, leader of Tacoma Sleepyheads, applauds the change made by Annie Wright. Mon and his friends started the Sleepyheads group, a grassroots campaign for later start times at the district’s middle schools and high schools.

He wants Tacoma’s bell schedule to be similar to Seattle’s, which changed to a later start time in 2017 and doesn’t require mandatory exercise.

“I want Tacoma to implement this change in a very sustainable fashion to make sure that students are getting the right amount of sleep,” he said.