Better Late Than Never

An early school start time creates problems for student success

Annaliese Punt, News Editor

photo by Annaliese Punt
Each Monday, students crowd around the security desk and Attendance Office.

Each morning, students are dragged from their warm bed and thrown into the waking world before they’ve had enough sleep. The inconvenient wakeup time of 7 a.m. makes it so they are groggy in class, falling asleep and missing out on opportunities.

While some believe the early start prepares them for the working world, there are actually biological reasons as to why they should press snooze and stay asleep a little longer.

A plethora of research has shown how early school starts are conflicting with the students’ growth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), all teens sleep differently, needing at least 8-10 hours a night. Also, changes to their patterns during puberty means they tend to get tired later in the evening.

Teenagers are getting less sleep at night due to the amount of work and studying their teachers assign them. Each teacher may say they only give out about an hour of homework each night, which is true. Adding up four classes, though, accumulates to four or more hours of school work.

For most students, this is tough. Including after school activities such as clubs and sports, it’s difficult to make the time for that amount of homework if they want to have a good night’s sleep.

Going to bed later causes them to need more rest. Most school schedules don’t accommodate for adolescent sleeping needs, causing a deep-rooted buildup of sleep debt.

At Millard West, only seniors are able to have blocks off. This allows them more time to work on homework, hang out with friends, eat or catch up on sleep. All other students are required to go to school for the full day. Only a lucky few have the opportunity to get the eight hours of sleep they need because of that extra time off.

Each day, students are becoming more drowsy in class due to lack of sleep. There are many potential harms associated with sleep deprivation. It can lead to an increased risk of obesity, decreased brain power, mood disorders such as depression, suicidal thinking and a higher inclination for risk taking.

Research from the National Sleep Foundation says that some 50-80% of students are suffering from some level of sleep deprivation. This causes severe threats to the health, safety and development of teens.

A possible solution could be to flip-flop the high school’s start time with the elementary schools.

In Millard Public Schools, the elementary schools start at 8:45 a.m. and get out at 3:45 p.m., whereas the high schools start at 8:00 a.m. and are let out at 3:15 p.m.. On Mondays, high schools begin at 8:45 p.m. and are let out at the same time as a normal day.

Students praise the late start each week, but that is also the day of the week that has the highest tardy rate in the morning. If the later wake up becomes a usual for the students, they will be well prepared for the time they must leave their houses in order to be on time.

On Wednesdays, elementary schools are out of school by 2:15 p.m., but start school at the same time. If they switched times with the high schools, it would give the busier students one day out of the week to catch up on some sleep or homework.

Many districts are hesitant to shift the schedules because they view it as too expensive and troublesome.

But that’s foolish.

In the long run, the later school start could actually save the school money and benefit society.

Repeated studies from the CDC show that when the school day starts later and teens get more sleep, both grades and standardized test scores go up. Higher scores for Millard could make more families want to move into the area and send their children to the schools. This would create more money for the district, which in turn would help with our current budget issue.

In Millard, athletics and extracurricular activities are crucial to have a memorable high school experience. A later start could cause them to have to switch up their schedules, but there are more upsides than downsides.

Delaying the start of school would boost their performance in their clubs and sports because they would have more time to rest.

Student athletes who get enough sleep are also less likely to get injured. In a 2012 study of Los Angeles middle and high school athletes, researchers found that getting less than eight hours of sleep was the strongest predictor of injury. If our students aren’t getting hurt, this would potentially save the parent’s money.

A study in North Carolina looked at their athletes as well and saw that more than a quarter of injured athletes would miss over a week of school. If the start is later and they got more sleep, there would be no problem with this.

Changing the start times is an important step to make our school district a better place. Although there are some drawbacks, none of them compare to what we could gain.