Should School Start Later?

Becca Simpson

Emily Shea and Becca Simpson

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The Country Gazette recently posted an article posing the question: What if high schools opened later in the morning? They conducted research and interviewed the Principal of Sharon High School 5 years after that particular school made the switch to a later start time.

After years of research, many schools decided that opening at a later time can maximize the work ethics of their students after the statement released in August by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The AAP recommended high schools nationwide start at 8:30 a.m. or later to help students get the minimum eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep needed per night.

Sarah Gyllstrom, a pediatrician of Southboro Medical Group, says that “students who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to be depressed, fatigued, have anxiety and perform poorly.”

It has been found that teenagers have a harder time falling asleep at night due to their brains producing a sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. Because of this, the AAP has suggested that waking up after 8 a.m. is when students can be most productive at school.

As Brittney McNamara has discovered in her article, “Sharon Public Schools Superintendent Timothy Farmer said his district saw a change after pushing their high school start time from 7:35 a.m. to 8:05 a.m. about five years ago. I think there’s the logistical challenge of buses and sports, then there’s the adaptive challenge of changing a mindset,’ Farmer said. Students in Sharon were tardy less often and participated more in morning classes. ‘I think the start time coincides better with sleep patterns of early adolescents. Research consistently supports that their deepest sleep is midnight and later. If they’re getting up at 5:30 a.m. versus 7 a.m., then you are interrupting their deepest patterns of sleep,’ Farmer said.”

We asked two faculty members at FHS on their views of moving to a later start time:

Mrs. Fausnacht: “I think that the positive would be that the kids that have trouble getting here first thing in the morning would definitely be on time. I think the negative is it seems by two o’clock kids are pretty much done so you’d have to extend it on the other end. I’ve read the studies. Kids have jobs and stuff like that, so starting a little later is not a bad idea. I think maybe overall it would help productivity.”

Mrs. O’Neill: “It will be a huge challenge to change school schedules to accommodate school schedules. However, many studies including one conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that 87% of high schoolers are not getting enough sleep, which is resulting in safety issues and health issues.”