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Starting this fall, Philadelphia School District high schools will begin at 9 a.m.

Credit: Gary Lin

The Philadelphia School District announced that nearly all public high schools will move to a later start time this fall, with all classes beginning at 9 a.m.

The decision arrives in response to a nationwide shift toward later school start times in order to accommodate teenage sleep patterns and enhance academic performance, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported

The 9 a.m. start times will be implemented throughout the 2022-2023 academic year and will impact all schools that offer high school grades, including joint middle and high schools, according to PhillyVoice. Now, the school day will end at 4:04 p.m. Pre-K programs will not be affected by the changes.

Current start times — some of which are as early as 7:30 a.m. — are inconsistent with teenagers' circadian rhythms, which don't support this sleep-wake schedule, psychologist and CHOP researcher Ariel Williamson told the Inquirer.

The decision was made in response to feedback from the Philadelphia community and the American Academy of Pediatrics’ research on the needs of high school students.

In terms of academic performance, the delayed start time will likely improve student academic outcomes by allowing students to be well-rested and better focused during school hours, CHOP psychiatrist and sleep medicine physician Arun Handa told the Inquirer.

In a letter to parents, the school district also said the delayed start will likely also improve travel safety for students in the morning and reduce transportation times, PhillyVoice reported.

Despite the research supporting the later start time, parents and teachers have voiced concerns that pushing school end times to later in the day could adversely impact students with jobs, and decrease student involvement in after-school extracurricular activities and sports, the Inquirer reported. 

The new 4:04 p.m. end time also raises some safety and feasibility concerns for students participating in after-school activities.

In the letter to parents, the school district stated plans to host "virtual community forums around the upcoming changes,” where families can provide feedback and learn more about the schedule changes.