Pro Argument: The School Day Should Start Later
By Rachel Skerker, Opinions Editor
To an outside observer, the morning of a school day is one of the most depressing things to witness. Students slink through the hallways, dragging their feet and rubbing their eyes. Greetings are merely half-heartened grumbles, sometimes accompanied with a growl and a “don’t-you-dare-talk-to-me-right-now” facial expression. Yet, students are expected to learn in such a state of mental and physical disarray.
Research conducted back in the 1990’s found that teenagers’ sleep cycles are set on a different biological course than that of adults. Studies indicate that it is the natural way for the teenager to stay up late, and then wake up later in the morning. According to Judith Owens, a sleep researcher at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington D.C.,”the biology trumps a lot of these environmental factors. The average teenager can’t fall asleep at 11.” In a recent published statement by the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP), it was concluded that all the research in past years prove that school should start no earlier than 8:30 am. The AAP spent four years verifying this statement by looking at past studies that verify that teenager’s biological clocks make it difficult for them to adjust in the early hours of the morning. Dr. Mary Carskadon, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University Medical School, says that, ”It doesn’t change how much sleep they need, but it makes it easier for them to stay awake longer.”
In recent years, legislation has been passed to delay school times, with immediate results. A school in Minneapolis reported that after having delayed their school start time by one hour, there was a higher rate of attendance, and teachers reported that many students displayed a more positive energy throughout the day. Due to sports, jobs, clubs, and other extracurricular activities, students must often sacrifice sleep in order to get their work done. By pushing back the start time of school, even if they are receiving the same amount of sleep, research shows that biologically they may have an easier time adapting in the morning as their brains are wired to sleep in later in the day. Delaying the start time of school would also make it safer for students who drive to school. Drowsy drivers and a crowded parking lot are not two things that should go together. Overall, pushing back the start time of school would result in lower rates of tardiness and absences, students paying better attention in the morning, and in general, students having a better experience throughout the early hours of school that will help them get through the rest of their day.
Con Argument: The School Day Should Start Later
By Annie O’Halloran, Online Editor
The school day, although it seems long, should be kept the way it is. Students today are up late doing homework after sports, jobs, and extracurricular activities, and may only get a few hours of sleep each night. Pushing the school day back later will have the same effect, but students will be going to bed later than normal and wake up later than normal. The “sleeping in” aspect seems like a great idea for students, but students still have to attend school for the same amount of time. Starting school late will end the school day as late as 3:45, rather than at of 2:45, and pushes back all sports, club, and after school activities for later in the day and into the night. One hour DOES make a difference, and pushing the start time to even further than one hour, such as 2 hours later, would have disastrous results.
Keeping school the way it is allows for students to finish school at a reasonable time in the afternoon, participate in after-school activities, and then complete their homework. High school students usually get 5-6 hours of sleep a night, which is not enough. Regardless of when school starts or ends, students will still not get the amount needed. This estimates that if school started at 9:45, and students woke up at 9 to get ready, they would be going to bed around 3:00-4:00 am. Students doing homework past midnight are less likely to want to complete it, more likely to put in less effort, and more likely to just skip it entirely. Homework, although annoying, is proven to help students perform better in school. Therefore, students going to bed earlier are at an advantage to finish their homework and put more effort into it, and thus will do better in school.
Some researchers believe that fewer people will be late or absent if school started later, however, this is not true. Some people will always be late, no matter what time school starts, also known as “chronic lateness.” In fact, some scientists argue that “chronic lateness” may be a medical condition caused by the same part of the brain responsible for ADHD. Whether school starts 7:45 or 9:45, these types of students will always have many tardies.
The time of school day should be kept the way it is. Although the idea of a later starting school day sounds more appealing, this change will not change the way students think of school and work, and will push the entire day back further. School is efficient the way it is, so why change it and change high-schoolers entire schedule?