Opinion: High school starting at 7:50 is INSANE

According to studies, high schools would greatly benefit from later start times

Source: Creative Commons

High schools start way too early in the morning! Students get stressed, overwhelmed and their mental health suffers. This affects their learning experience. I believe many students, as well as myself, would benefit greatly from school starting later in the morning.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in 42 states, 75%-100% of public schools start before 8:30 a.m. The average high school start time is out of sync from teenagers’ sleep schedules. This isn’t because teenagers are irresponsible and stay up late watching TV. According to Sleep for Success, teenagers’ bodies don’t start producing melatonin, a hormone linked to sleep cycles, until around 11:00 p.m. and continue to produce it until 8:00 a.m.

Of course, there’s no perfect scenario that works for everyone. Some students excel in early starting schools. For example, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland have 30 high schools, and the three are ranked highest by U.S. News and World Report for college readiness and Algebra and English proficiency all begin classes at 7:25 a.m. Although this works for these schools, it doesn’t mean it works for them all. Some schools struggle to get their students to attend and be motivated to succeed. These are the schools that would benefit greatly from later start times.

Student attendance issues and tardies are at all high schools, whether it’s from oversleeping or simply not being motivated to go to school. According to a study done by Pamela McKeever of Central Connecticut State University and Linda Clark, in 2017, “Delaying high school start times to 8:30 a.m. and later significantly improved graduation and attendance rates.” McKeever and Clark studied 29 high schools across seven states, comparing attendance and graduation rates before and after the schools changed their start times to 8:30 a.m. or later. The average graduation rate jumped from 79% to 88%, and the average attendance rate went from 90% to 94%.

Mental health is such an issue in teenagers, and school starting early in the morning plays a part in it. According to a recent study, teenagers with school start times before 8:30 a.m. may be at particular risk of experiencing depression and anxiety due to compromised sleep quality, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC). The study states that “about 90% of high-school-aged adolescents get insufficient sleep on school nights, or barely meet the required amount of sleep (8–10 hours) needed for healthy functioning.”

Some students may worry that with a later start time that they won’t have time for sports, friends or an after school job. However, that’s not the case! If school were to start at a later time, for example 8:30 a.m., students would get out of school at 3:00 p.m. Because of this, they would still have plenty of time after school for jobs and after school activities. 

Another concern comes from parents. Early school start times could help parents with not having to pay for childcare in the morning when they go to work. However, this wouldn’t be an issue. The elementary start times would stay the same while high school starts about an hour later. For parents who have older children in high school, they are most likely old enough to be home by themselves in the morning before school. For parents with both kids in elementary and high school, their older kids could be more helpful with watching their younger siblings in the morning, therefore avoiding childcare costs.

There are so many benefits that come from a later high school start time, and there are many studies to prove it. I, and many others, believe that it would be most beneficial if high school instead started at 8:30 a.m. There would be so many benefits and would greatly improve the learning environment.

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