Should the School District Move to a Later High School Start Time?

[Statements, opinion, and views expressed in this column are those of the author named and are not necessarily those of the and Thought Process Enterprises team.]

Starting school later seems to be a topic that floats around the district. Although I believe it would have benefits, I don’t think it’s a change our school district could radically make.

I won’t argue that starting high school later would probably lead to better academic success. There’s no shortage of evidence suggesting a later start time would lead to increased performance based on some sciencey stuff that says teenagers have trouble falling asleep before midnight and don’t function well in the early morning hours.

After a quick Google search, I found testimonies and studies from dozens of institutions, including: the National Sleep Association, the American Lung Association of New England, the University of Rochester Medical Center, the Brookins Institute, the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center, the Center for Disease Control and University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. There are also several oft-cited studies by Dr. Mary Carskadon of the Brown University School of Medicine and Dr. Amy Wolfson of the College of the Holy Cross that support a later start time.

Personally, I would have felt better during school with a later start time. Even now, I don’t like waking up at six o’clock, especially in the winter when it’s still night time, and we all know that the night is dark and full of terrors.

It’s also earlier than when some people are required to wake up. Office jobs typically start at eight or nine and if you live close, a seven o’clock waking time emotionally feels a lot better than six. If you’re one of those people that needs eight plus hours of sleep, there’s not really such a thing as going to bed early enough to feel rested at six in the morning.

But these are all complaints. The reality is that there are lots of people that have to wake up shortly past the Hour of the Wolf, work holidays, works nights, work shifts, sleep three hours a day and all sorts of other things that aren’t cozy. Regardless of how bad you think you have it in terms of getting up for work, somebody somewhere has it worse.

Should we be concerned about our teenage children’s coziness?

I think we should, because the primary purpose of high school is to educate, and it’s been repeatedly demonstrated that teenagers will learn better if school starts an hour, or just half hour, later. Even if children just go to bed an hour later, it will still result in a more restful sleep.

Unfortunately, administration, parents and government can be resistant to a change merely because it’s a change. After all, children having been getting up at six for decades, and everything is fine, so why change it?

Because we know that a change would be for the better. It’s not coddling children, and it’s not a decrease in discipline. Student will still have to go to bed and still have to wake up early- it’s just a slight change in schedule so their brains will be more alert when they’re required to use their brains.

However, there is one far more serious problem with starting school later. If Ellwood School District would move Lincoln High School’s start time to 8:30, then our school would be an hour out of sync with all of our neighbors. Every single sporting and extra-curricular activity event that is after school would either have to start later, meaning children will be getting home later, or our students would have to leave school early, thereby missing classes. Students occasionally get out of school early for events, but this would become a weekly occurrence.

We would also have bus schedules to rearrange, many parents would have to adjust their schedules (if that’s even possible to schedule around their job) and employers would have to accommodate for student employees. According to pro-later start time sources, all of these proved to be less of a problem that predicted to districts that adopted a later start time.

Ideally, the state government, or even Federal government, would move to encourage (if we’re into small government) or legislate (if we’re a big government kind of guy) for high schools to start later. That’s not going to happen anytime soon, so it’s up to individual high schools to take the initiative.

Starting school later isn’t something Ellwood should simply walk into. Putting us out of sync with neighboring schools might make the move impractical altogether. However, it is an idea worth consideration and local study.

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