Later School Start Time, More Academic Success

An iconic public school clock is packed away

chicagopublicmedia: Bill Healy

An iconic public school clock is packed away

Pushing back the school start time will help students be more academically successful by enabling them to be more focused. Additional sleep will be more beneficial for students’ health, increasing student attendance. It has nothing to do with laziness or a lack of ambition, but it has been proven that children’s sleep patterns alter when they enter puberty. Because of the way that melatonin, a hormone that controls sleep, is released by adolescents’ bodies, they naturally stay up later and wake up later. Since teens cannot emerge from this melatonin-induced sleep mode until at least 8:00 a.m., later start times for school are preferred. Changing school start hours provides several advantages, but administrators must also consider the adverse effects of altering an accustomed routine.

The logistics of altering schedules take time to navigate. Some examples are parent work schedules. Parents may rely on older siblings in some households to help care for their younger siblings. Transportation issues and having a district with a large number of elementary and middle schools can cause a strain on the availability of buses. Dr. Athothy Rybarczyk,  the Assistant Superintendant of elementary education, facilitated an adolescent Sleep and School Start Time Study at Pennridge High School. He stated that “there was a lack of bus drivers at the time and which continues to be a problem, and even getting busses made by the manufacturer was a problem.” Finally, extracurricular activities. Starting at later times would cause athletes to practice at later times and get home even later.

The benefits of a later start time for a student’s total well-being outweigh the adverse logistics of making it happen. Benefits of a later start time include; better mental and physical health. Getting more sleep will help students perform better in school and be more motivated to go to school. Stephanie Nash, a Psychology teacher at Pennridge High school, stated, “Studies have shown that schools with later start times tend to have better student involvement, students being on time, and fewer absences, which leads to better school academics.” Fewer tardies and absences allow students to be in class more and achieve higher academic goals. Students having to drive to school in the morning when they are drowsy and half asleep puts their and others’ lives at risk. Drowsiness has many of the same negative impacts as drinking alcohol. Pushing back the start time will reduce car accidents and injuries.

Administrators from all schools should reevaluate the health benefits of a later start time by taking surveys from student bodies and parents. Giving students even one extra hour could benefit them greatly.