Later Start Times, Not All It Is Cracked Up To Be

Several school districts, such as the Novi and Keene school districts, are undergoing a change for the oncoming school year. This revision consists of pushing back the start times of schools to give students more rest.

According to a 2020 Sentinel Source article, “Keene School District announces new start times” by Paul Cuno-Booth “Elementary schools in Keene will run from 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.; the middle school from 8:50 a.m. to 3:22 p.m.; and the high school from 8:40 a.m. to 3:33 p.m. The change follows a 2018 decision by the Keene Board of Education to shift to later start times for the middle and high schools. The board’s action came after a committee recommended the change, citing research showing that adolescents naturally wake up later and tend to do better when they don’t have to get to school so early.”

Students who do not have any extracurricular activities would be more receptive to this change.

“I am sleep deprived daily because I must wake up so early, so I would really benefit from this change,” Samantha Baker ‘20 said. “Also, most high schoolers have jobs that force them to stay up longer, so it is harder to wake up in the morning. I understand that extracurricular activities will change, but that does not really faze me because I am not in any extracurriculars.”

However, students who have responsibilities outside of school think that a later start time could interfere with their schedules.

“Like most kids, I hate waking up early,” Gina Kozlowski ‘20 said. “However, in my opinion, it is a necessary sacrifice in order to not mess with my extracurricular schedule. I am in Spanish Club, and I would like to use Spanish Club on my college application, so I can’t afford to sacrifice it for a few more minutes of sleep. Spanish Club is vital for me because I plan on majoring in Spanish and Spanish Club shows prior experience with the language”

The benefit of extra sleep can be enticing.

“I am really tired all the time and I could benefit from the extra minutes of sleep,” Seth Pelkey ‘20 said. “I understand the effect of this change on extracurricular activities, but I think this change is necessary for the health of the student body.”

While more sleep is the goal, the idea of students achieving this causes doubt.

“I do not think this change would really benefit anyone,” Kyla Hunter ‘20 said. “I bet most students would just stay up later rather than sleep. Also, the fact that extracurricular schedules would be affected is a huge problem for most of the student body, especially those who do not or cannot drive. I think this change would mostly cater to the small portion of the student body who do not do any extracurricular activities.”

The issue of students’ awareness and restfulness also has a heavy effect on teachers, as it affects the classroom.

“I can obviously tell every morning that my students are immensely tired,” Austin Kaiser, Algebra I teacher, said. “However, I think that if our school did adopt this change, our students’ amount of sleep would not change. Sure, some stricter households will maintain their sleep habits, causing more sleep, but I bet most students would just stay up longer rather than go to bed. Also, there would be a monumental downside to this change taking place. School would end at a much later time, disadvantaging many adults and students.”

Despite the research in favor of later wake up times, these changes do not seem to fit in with the environment which has already acclimated to the current schedule. One such reason for these changes not fitting is the need for older kids to care for younger siblings on behalf of working parents.

“The research shows that not getting enough sleep is common among high school students and is associated with various health risks and poor academic performance,” Lisa Mattson, guidance counselor, said. “Therefore, many experts agree that starting school later can help adolescents get enough sleep and improve their health, academic performance and overall quality of life. I believe making the changes necessary and the shifts in scheduling would be very challenging for school districts.  It is a complicated scenario that would affect bussing schedules, athletics and all after school activities. Working parents would also be impacted as younger children would possibly require longer after school care.”