Later start times may provide schools with exactly what they strive to achieve — students with better performance and stronger mental health, according to a news report by The Associated Press released on Monday.

The Associated Press reported how in Pennsylvania, Upper Darby High has started mandatory in-person attendance to start at 9:45 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m. Students are instructed to use the time from 7:30-9:45 a.m. as they see fit; sleeping in, meeting with teachers for one-on-one guidance or working on extra homework.

Teen substance use declined during the pandemic — even as mental health concerns increased

After COVID-19

One of the reasons for the later start time at Upper Darby High was to help students with their mental health, especially after the pandemic, the article said.

Deseret News previously reported on how the COVID-19 pandemic affected teens and their mental health.

According to a report conducted by the Utah Department of Health and Human Services in 2021, there was a significant increase in students who showed signs of depression following the pandemic, the article said.

ABC News said that “during the pandemic, soaring numbers of high school students expressed persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, with girls and LGBTQ+ youth reporting the highest levels of poor mental health and suicide attempts. It doesn’t help that research suggests middle and high school students aren’t getting enough sleep.”

Orfeu Buxton, director of the Sleep, Health & Society Collaboratory at Penn State University, told The Associated Press, “These mental health challenges are already going to happen and then, with the absence of sleep, are much worse,” adding, “The same with decision making, suicidal ideation, those kinds of things.”

Some other advantages Upper Darby High has noticed included students sleeping less in class, extra time in the morning for teachers to take of themselves or their families and more time for administrators to find substitute teachers.

Opinion: DEI statements are not a violation of the Constitution

But despite the hype behind later start times in schools, other experts say later start times are not the cure-all for students.

A report by the National Education Association released last year said a study in 2021 “looked at 18,000 students in grades 5 through 11 after four school districts postponed the start of their school day by 20 to 65 minutes. Students’ grade point averages increased by a modest 0.1 points, on average.”

Regarding young children, a study conducted by the American Educational Research Association found that early school start times did not have the same negative impacts as it did on older youths.

Sarah Crittenden Fuller, co-author of the study and associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the National Education Association, “Moving elementary schools to earlier start times is unlikely to harm the educational outcomes of these younger students.”