Linden Hall

Linden Hall campus.

Thirty minutes can go a long way for someone like Mahisha Tanna.

The 17-year-old is student council president at Linden Hall, an all-girls private school in Lititz offering grades six through 12. She’s a National Honor Society member, an International Thespian Society member, a student ambassador and a residential assistant. She’s president of Linden Hall’s DECA chapter, a student leadership and entrepreneurship organization. She also dances and plays tennis.

And in February, she was named Miss Lancaster County’s Outstanding Teen.

So when Linden Hall bumped back its school start time by half an hour a few years ago, Tanna was overjoyed at the prospect of getting more sleep after a busy night.

“I think mentally is just made me feel more comfortable with everything that we’re doing,” she says.

Ephrata Area School District in February approved a plan to delay start times by five minutes at the elementary level to 9 a.m., 30 minutes at the intermediate school to 8:55 a.m., 45 minutes at the middle school to 8:05 a.m. and 40 minutes at the high school to 8:10 a.m.

Other school districts, such as Hempfield and Solanco, have said they’re studying later school start times.

Linden Hall in 2016 changed its school start time from 8 to 8:30 a.m., when Tanna, now a senior, was about to start high school. Head of School Michael Waylett says the decision was based on a “great deal of research” behind the benefits of later school start times.

He also borrowed the idea from a private school in Charlottesville, Virginia, at which he worked before coming to Linden Hall five years ago.

“Students do much better when they start the day later as opposed to starting the day earlier,” Waylett said.

Research tends to agree.

Health organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association say the ideal start time for secondary school students — grades six through 12 — is 8:30 a.m. or later.

That’s because puberty causes a delayed release in melatonin, which affects sleep onset and wake times, researchers say. That can lead to myriad health problems, from anxiety and depression to diabetes and heart disease.

A state-commissioned report released in 2019 said sleep deprivation among teenagers amounted to “a public health crisis of epidemic proportions” and recommended considering pushing back secondary school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later.

The report, conducted by educators, health professionals, transportation administrators, parents and students, listed Linden Hall as the only Lancaster County school, private or public, to delay start times.

Ephrata Area School District in February approved a plan to delay start times by five minutes at the elementary level to 9 a.m., 30 minutes at the intermediate school to 8:55 a.m., 45 minutes at the middle school to 8:05 a.m. and 40 minutes at the high school to 8:10 a.m.

Other school districts, such as Hempfield and Solanco, have said they’re studying later school start times.

Waylett says he’d “absolutely” recommend making the switch.

“The girls come to us and they’re more prepared, more ready to take on the school day,” he says. “I think that extra half-hour really makes a difference.”

Linden Hall, however, doesn’t have to deal with transportation, which is one of the major hurdles for adjusting schedules. About two-thirds of the school’s 200 students live on campus. The other third commute.

For Tanna, the switch has made it easier to juggle all of her evening activities and allowed her to explore more of her passions, she says.

“It’s really just helped me feel more comfortable in pursuing my interests personally and academically,” she says.

Asked if she gets to sleep in, Tanna says yes — most of the time.

“When I’m not in a meeting, yes,” she says.