Why later school start times are beneficial to students
Is changing a school’s start time beneficial to students’ lives in and out of school? Almost no one can be effective at school if it starts at the Massachusetts average of 7:53 AM, according to The Boston Globe. And 7:53 is only the time the school day starts. It doesn’t even count the number of time preparations and transportation takes before even getting to school. It’s a teen’s instinct to go to bed later than adults and young kids, so asking them to get up before 7:53 and get ready for seven hours of schoolwork is “like asking an adult to be active and alert at 5:30 a.m” according to NPR. I know the struggle to get out of bed early first-hand; it takes a lot to get up when it’s still dark outside. With the early starting time and all the things to do before school, teens usually get, on average, 7 hours of sleep a night when the recommended amount is eight to nine hours. Schools have recognized that this is a problem and have taken to starting the school day later.
To teens, all 8 hours of sleep is crucial especially to be able to perform well in school. Some parents and teachers believe that students already get enough sleep every night but they haven’t seen all the positive impacts of starting school later. Starting school later gets students more sleep and everyone knows that the more sleep you get the better you perform throughout the day. Performing well every day at school can promote better concentration in class which leads to better grades. Every teacher’s goal is to make sure every student gets the future they deserve and good grades help with that. So why wouldn’t they want a schedule that better sets up their students for success?
The main focus on changing starting times in school is always the students but some experts have shown that teachers can also be positively affected due to the change. Teachers usually have to be at school even earlier than students which causes them to wake up earlier. Then, when school starts they have to be ready to teach a bunch of people who are still half-asleep. The EdWeek Research Center found that teachers in the U.S. work an average of 54 hours per week which without the recommended amount of sleep could end badly for them and their students.
Due to the lack of sleep students are getting, many have begun relying on caffeine to help them stay awake throughout the day. The American Academy of Pediatrics published that about 73% of teens in the U.S. consume caffeine in some way every day. Many people have been told from a young age that caffeine has negative impacts on growing children but it has some negative side effects on teens, too. Some of those include anxiety and fatigue which are already caused by not getting enough sleep. If students wake up later and therefore feel less tired then they would be less likely to rely upon caffeine throughout the day which would lessen the possibility of these symptoms.
With all these positive impacts, there are many concerns about how homework and after-school activities would be impacted. In Seattle, they made a change to their school starting times by sending elementary students to school earlier and middle and high school students later. Roni Dulman, a Seattle parent of two students, explains how the change in starting times impacted his children after-school by saying, “…It didn’t change. They still went [to the Boys and Girls Club after school], but they spent more time there…Now that it’s shorter for middle school, it’s a little better. But for elementary school, it just feels like it’s long to them.” Starting school early, like the elementary school students do in Seattle, makes them spend more time without anything to do after school. Students should be able to come home from school or go to their after-school activity for a reasonable amount of time before getting restless.
We’ve learned how students’ health is impacted by changing school starting times but we’ve also learned how the adults that contribute to a student’s education could be impacted by the change. If early school times are a problem in your school community you could help to change that by telling the people in charge suggestions on how to change them to make them more agreeable with everyone. Suggestions could include starting all the schools in the area around the same later time so that parents wouldn’t have such a busy schedule in the mornings and explaining the changes and the reasons behind them to parents and students before going through with the change. I think that we can say that changing school start times is beneficial to students’ lives in and out of school.