PRINCETON — High school students in this Central Jersey district will get to sleep in an extra half hour starting next school year.

The Board of Education voted 9-0 in favor with one abstention on the motion to move the start of school at Princeton High School from 7:50 a.m. to 8:20 a.m.

"This time change is an effort by the Board to improve the health and wellness of students in the Princeton Public School District so that students are able to learn at their full potential. Studies have consistently shown that a later start time has significant benefits for adolescent students," according to the motion.

The resolution did not address how the change would affect the start times of other district schools. A message for a representative of the Princeton School District was not yet returned.

The issue of later starts for middle and high school students was up for debate after a 2014 study by American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that adolescents do not get enough sleep, which leads to poor academic performance and health issues.

The report said that the natural sleep cycle of teens makes it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. The report suggested to begin classes at 8:30 a.m. for students age 13 and older.

The AAP report and a study done by the state Department of Education under the Christie Administration in 2016 acknowledged that one of the biggest obstacles cited by many districts in changing: the difficulties in changing start times with transportation, after school activities and athletics.

Newly elected school board member Michele Ponder, who abstained from voting, expressed concern about a later start because the issue of what happens when the school day ends later.

"We are addressing the symptom as opposed to the disease. I'm not confident starting the day later will achieve the objective that we seek," Ponder said, adding that she would like to see more done to address the issue of sleep health and better manage the amount of homework assigned.

The state report concluded there should not be a mandate from the state and that start times should be left to the discretion of local school districts. It did recommend, however, that districts should "carefully review" the issue.

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