Should Schools Start Later?

Who should decide what time school starts? 

Colleen Cahill/Media Bakery 


More than 80 percent of public schools start prior to 8:30 a.m., which doctors say robs teens of vital rest. Is it time to overhaul the daily schedule?

YES: It's simple. Health comes first.

There’s no sound more dreadful than the shrill scream of a morning alarm clock, especially when you have a stressful day ahead—and got what felt like minutes of sleep the night before. Even doctors feel our pain, urging schools to allow for extra slumber. Yet most districts have ignored their advice, and that’s unfortunate. Teens shouldn’t have to choose between their health and their education.  

Sleep-deprived students face consequences much greater than feeling drowsy all day. Studies suggest a link between lack of Zzzs and mental illness, a weakened immune system, and a reduced stress threshold. Basically, we’re neglecting a basic survival need while we strive to build a successful future. Does anyone else see the irony here?   

Revamping the schedule is no easy task, but if school officials truly care about the well-being of their student body, they need to try. It’s time to put our health first and take action!

— Emi Yasuda, a high school senior in California

No: The extra hours won't be spent sleeping. 

I love sleeping in just as much as the next guy, but added time in the morning comes with a major downside: less free time at night! Even with an early roll call, it’s tough to get the most out of the after-school period. With a later morning bell, we'll be expected to fit homework, practices, meetings, jobs, and even dinner into fewer evening hours. Getting to bed before midnight? Yeah, right! 

But students and teachers aren’t the only ones who would be rattled by a school schedule change. The extra wave of commuters will shift traffic patterns; working parents will need to scramble to find morning childcare; and next thing you know, the whole town has to adjust. School districts shouldn’t have that kind of power over the community. 

Waking up early has been part of our routine since kindergarten. Why flip the script now, solely because of an updated guideline from doctors? Everyone’s tired now and then. Just deal with it.

— Jayme Wagner, a sixth-grade student in Kansas 

3 Fast Facts

1. Teens need 9¼ hours of nightly slumber for optimal performance and health, but two thirds of high school students report sleeping less than 7 hours each night.

2. Production of melatonin, the body’s sleep hormone, occurs later at night during puberty. This makes it more difficult for teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and wake up before 8 a.m.

3. Research suggests that “catching up” on sleep over the weekend doesn’t erase your sleep debt. While you may feel more rested, your reaction time and problem-solving skills still lag behind. 

Sources: 1. National Sleep Foundation, Journal of Adolescent Health; 2. SLEEP; 3. American Journal of Physiology-—Endocrinology and Metabolism, 2013. 

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