A Project for Better Journalism chapter

School needs to start later

As the previous two articles on this subject of sleep and start times have discussed, students need more sleep, and will benefit from delaying when school starts. It’s not a question of if, but a question of how.

One obstacle that schools face when trying to change school start times is buses. Littleton Public Schools has to juggle elementary, middle and high school bus schedules, but this obstacle can and must be overcome. First, many elementary students are already awake by the time high schoolers leap out of bed and rush to school. Second, the burden to bear the early start time should not fall on teenagers because they have far more and greater responsibilities, not to mention the fact they’re biologically wired to stay up later.

What districts around the country have done is they have flipped around when which grades get picked up by the bus, i.e., now the elementary schools start at around 7:20 and the high schools start later. This could be a workable solution for LHS.

But do students even want a later start time? After school activities like clubs, jobs, sports and heaps of homework would then be delayed too. Teenagers don’t like waking up early, but some would say that it has to be done in order for them to have enough time to do all their other activities. However, a later start would leave more time in the mornings, in fact some sports do meet in the mornings already and those students need to come to school much earlier than 7:15. At least now, with the advent of the switch to standard time, students can come to school when the sun is up.

Organizations like the National Sleep Foundation recommend 8:30 am as the general standard for starting school. What that means is that LHS starts over an hour earlier than what science suggests, and that has to change. Statistically, teachers can definitely expect to see an improvement in the general mood and performance of students in class. They won’t fall asleep on their desks as much, they’ll raise their hands and participate in discussions more, and, studies show, get better test grades.

LHS needs to consider adjusting the schedules to allow a later start time, it is disappointing that modern science hasn’t yet taken hold. It will take a long time to straighten out all the logistics, and that’s an important part of changing start times, but the work will yield great benefits. The district slogan is “big enough to serve you; small enough to know you,” let’s watch them prove it.

See the previous two articles on school start times, Are LHS students sleep deprived? and Schools need to take a look at the science behind sleep.