School Start Times

If you asked students what their least favorite part about school is, my guess is that a good amount of them would say the start time. Start times for schools vary across the country and there is a constant debate among educators and parents over the best time to start. Waking up early for school has become normalized and according to a study done in Canada, could be detrimental to the student’s grades and health. Earlier start times leads to less sleep and as a direct alternative, later start times lead to more sleep. Students are unlikely to go to bed any earlier, however they are prone to be able to sleep in later and therefore by moving school start times later students will get more sleep. According to a study published in Canada in the Journal of Sleep Research, students ranging from K-12 that started school earlier got less sleep and were more prone to falling short of the national sleep recommendations implemented by the researchers. There are direct advantages to getting more sleep for students including increased attention and better grades.belltimes0091423520712

A study done by Shakira Sugila found that ⅕ of 16-year-olds got less than six hours of sleep and as a result were 20% more likely than those who got eight or more hours of sleep to be obese in the next five years. Judith Owens also explains that students who get ample sleep are less likely to be depressed, get in car accidents, and have better success in schools and on tests. If students come to school more alert and awake and are more ready to learn upon arrival, it is not surprising that there are positive academic results related with this change. You want children to come to school ready to learn and be engaged in their classroom, right? Later start times also correspond well with the circadian rhythm changes that are occurring to adolescents around the time they are in high school. Teenagers tend to go to bed later and wake up later, and if they are forced to wake up at the crack of dawn every morning, their rhythm is going to be extremely affected.

On the other hand, there has also been opposition to the changes in start times. Some parents are unhappy with the change as it alters the schedule for after school activities and child care that are often set up while the parent is working. It is also possible that the child is now starting school after the parent goes to work which then makes it difficult if the parent was used to driving the child to school each day. Not only has there been backlash from parents over the change, but the changes have also complicated the busing systems in many places and the start times are having to be organized in a way that makes it feasible for the buses to continue running smoothly as to allow students to get to school in the same way, regardless of start time.  

In my own personal experience I remember struggling to stay awake throughout my first period classes in high school. Sometimes throughout the class I would be more focused on trying to stay awake than I was on learning the lesson or listening to what the teacher was telling me. I think if my school were to have moved the start times back even 30 minutes as is proposed in many of these articles, many of the students at my school would have benefitted greatly.


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One Response to School Start Times

  1. haydenvick says:

    Mary Katherine,

    My experience with school start times is interesting because I also got very little sleep when I was in high school. I would always stay up later than everyone in our house to do homework or watch tv, and though this was by my own volition, starting the day at 7:30 is still pretty early. What’s more is that with the staggering start times between elementary, middle, and high schools, my siblings and I were often confused as to when school started for each other. I have vivid memories in high school of leaving the house on some days when my brother, who started a whole hour after me, wasn’t even awake yet. I understand the premise behind staggered start times, as I’m sure it takes a lot of the burden of taking kids to school off of parents, but it can get confusing. What is your opinion specifically on staggered start times and their pros and cons? Thank you for bringing up a topic that is too often overlooked!



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