NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — It’s been a plight for parents — prepping to have their high schoolers on time for the start of class at 7 a.m.

“Nashville stands as the earliest start time for public schools in the country for high school students. And that is not a badge of honor,” Councilmember Freddie O’Connell explained. “Now, what I’m hearing is parents, again, just a new chorus of people finding it absurd that they and their kids are getting up at 5:30 a.m.”

O’Connell now supports the mission of the Start School Later Tennessee group comprised of health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents and students who want more attention given to the effects of school hours on student health and performance.

“If you push high school start times back to eight o’clock, it would have a measurable impact on student performance, student attitude and literal student health, including mental health,” O’Connell said.

An 8:30 a.m. or later start time is supported by the CDC based on guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s recommended that teens 13 to 18 years old should regularly sleep 8 to 10 hours per day for good health.

Adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to:

  • Be overweight
  • Not engage in daily physical activity
  • Suffer from symptoms of depression
  • Engage in unhealthy risk behaviors
  • Perform poorly in school

“If we’re looking at the idea of learning loss during COVID, there’s very little that could be as transformative as a single action you could take and something we ought to pursue more urgently than starting to seriously think about it 2026,” he said.

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O’Connell refers to a date referenced in a previous Metro Nashville Public School meeting where the topic was pushed back — not the time of school.

In a statement MNPS explained:

MNPS surveyed students and faculty about this topic back in 2010 and the opinions on changing start times were fairly evenly split. The district does intend to review this issue through the Metro Schools ReimaginED initiative in the future, along with student, staff, and parent input, but the focus right now is in the successful planning and implementation of the 5th grade transition from middle school to elementary school. Transportation is a primary logistical challenge in moving high school start times later, unless elementary schools started much earlier, and there are some concerns about the safety of our youngest learners who would be required to go to the bus stop when it is still very dark out. Other considerations include after school activities, such as athletics, as well as after-school jobs for students.

MNPS Spokesperson

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“I am here to say on behalf of Metro, I am eager to lean into the logistical challenges,” O’Connell said. “At a minimum, we should understand what it would cost to allow high schools to start later without disadvantaging existing elementary school students.”