The issue is now a familiar one: research has concluded that early school start times deprive adolescents of the ideal amount of sleep they need for optimal development. In other words, the earlier America’s teens must get up for school, the increase of the chance that many are too tired to be achieving their best academic performance.
Many schools have, as a result, adopted later school start times, although developing a schedule that works with extracurricular activities and sports as well as cost-effectively developing new bus routes has been a challenge to many.
According to a new article from Jane Swift, the CEO of Middlebury Interactive Language for EdSurge, one district may have figured out a solution to such problems.
The Piedmont City School District in Alabama has implemented “virtual first periods,” an option available to high-performing 10th-12 grade students.
"These students can complete the assignments for their first period class, which must include online coursework, anytime they want, allowing them to sleep in during the week,” Swift says.
According to Swift, the idea of this virtual first period represents the promise that digital learning holds.
The promise of digital instruction, she says, is "increased flexibility and access to high quality academic coursework for all students. And if it helps stop the spread of tired teenage zombies, we’ll all sleep a bit better.”
Indeed, this isn’t the first time a district has implemented virtual learning to solve common problems. Many districts are starting to utilize virtual learning to minimize the damage of snow days.
Instead of having to extend the school year well into summer vacation, schools have began implementing “virtual snow days” to ensure kids keep learning even when they have to do it from home.
The possibilities for virtual learning, in other words, appear to be endless as districts continue to develop innovative uses to resolve problems.
Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor