Eastern CI late start shows signs of success

Students at Eastern Commerce can get used to those extra 30 minutes of sleep.

Encouraged by research that shows high school students may benefit from a later start, Eastern Commerce became the first public school in Canada to start classes at 10 a.m.

That was two years ago and the experiment seems to be working.

The first interim report since the pilot project shows that students at all grade levels are earning credits and scoring higher grades in various subjects.

School administration has no plans to halt the program, even though that means more late nights for staff and teachers.

“Why halt progress,” principal Sam Miceli said in May.

In the survey, released by the Toronto District School Board in late April, 70 percent of students reported that they found a later class time start made it “easier to come to school”.

Teachers reported that students are alert and able to apply themselves. Miceli said anecdotally he’s noticed an improved attitude among students.

Research shows that the waking mechanism of teenagers is different than adults and that they typically perform better on cognitive tasks after noon.

OISE prof Esther Geva says that learning how to organize and how to set goals are important functions of school, but that the cognitive side of learning is a separate matter.

“If you’re not learning much from school because you’re tired —that’s a problem,” Geva said.

“Whatever people believe, it would probably be better for everybody if they started at noon … If you go to school, are you there to learn how to fit the system or are you there to learn?”

The trends are encouraging but not definitive. There was a slight decline in Grade 11 and 12 science marks, and no improvement in Grade 9 and 10 EQAO assessment results, the study showed. And there are still issues that need to be addressed. According to the study’s findings, student absenteeism in the afternoon is still a concern. And the later start causes conflicts in terms of conflicting afterschool activity schedules.

“These are the kinds of things we’ll be looking at in the final report when it comes out next year,” says local school trustee Cathy Dandy.

Miceli says the late start was necessary, considering the special challenges faced by Eastern Commerce students.

“When I got the job, I didn’t really understand how far kids were commuting. Some of them are getting up at 5:30, 6:30 a.m. to get on two buses to get to school,” Miceli said. “Not the best way to start the day.”

Students come from all over: as far west as Highway 427 and as far east as Rouge Hill. In fact, eight out of 10 students don’t live in the area.

Some students work overnight shifts to support their families.

“We figured the late-start program was a low-cost way of responding to the student’s needs,” Miceli said.