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School mornings will be earlier in Syracuse amid bus driver shortage

File Photo
A school bus operated by First Student, which is contracted by the Syracuse City School District to manage student transportation.

Research shows teens perform better in class when school begins after 8:30 a.m. But the Syracuse City School District recently announced it’s moving in the other direction and starting classes a bit earlier.  

More than two dozen city schools—27 to be exact—will begin before 8:30 a.m. next school year. Another 17 schools will start even earlier at 7:25 a.m.

The announcement was made over the weekend on Syracuse City School’s social media channels, taking many parents, students and teachers by surprise, based on the more than 100 comments the Facebook post received. 

The district declined an interview but issued a statement attributing the change to a shortage of bus drivers. Officials said they need a bigger gap between start times to shuttle thousands of students with a limited numbers of drivers. This, the statement said, required three different school start times.

This year, OnTECH Charter High Schoolalso moved its start time earlier, but the school is conscious of the timing that research says is best for kids.

A woman stands at a podium in a school district building with a sign reading "Building Our Future" behind her.
Ashley Kang
Ellen Eagen, founder of OnTECH Charter High School, speaks during a charter school public hearing May 15, 2023, at the Syracuse City School District board room.

The American Academy of Pediatrics  recommends middle and high schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later to allow students to get the recommended hours of sleep each night.

OnTECH, a year-round, tuition-free high school in its fifth year, is geared toward students who struggle in a traditional classroom setting. The school began its classes at 10 a.m. when it launched.  

But founder Ellen Eagen, said OnTECH now has more after school programs that require the earlier start time, but they’re still following researchers’ recommendations.  

“Based on the research of the adolescent brain, it's great for the school day to start later when the brain is awake, however, we have to balance that with all of the after school activities.” 

The school recently moved up its start time to 9 a.m.

Have you been impacted by a changing start time? We want to hear from you. Email us at