Why High Schools Should Start Classes Later

Why High Schools Should Start Classes Later

Erin Bryant, Staff Writer

When the clock strikes 6:00 am, thousands of high school students all over Palm Beach County groggily begin their morning trudge.

This tedious routine which usual includes grabbing a quick bite and washing away morning stench is not met with much joy by teenagers and, now, by scientists. A recent study in the Journal of Educational Psychology links earlier school start times with poorer performance when analyzing 718 public schools in Kentucky. The researchers theorized that sleep deprivation is the culprit since it hinders the ability to stay awake and alert during class time. Sleep deprivation also leads to a weakened immune system which means attendance drops.  Many medical experts agree that teens should get 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep yet most get 6 ½ hours or less. When scientists at the University of Minnesota observed high schools that pushed start times to 8:30 they saw improvement in attendance, fewer car accidents, fewer tardies, lower rates of depression, and improved grades. Alexander W. Dreyfoos and Boca Raton High, two of the top performing schools in Palm Beach County, start at 8:30 am rather than at the (butt) crack of dawn.

Teens and adults alike have rejoiced in the findings. 80% of adults polled by the National Science Foundation believe that schools should begin later.

Everyone is in agreement yet most high schools start at 7:30 am. The answer as to why lies with small, yet important logistical details dealing with bus schedules, afterschool events, and working parent’s transportation arrangements.

“The biggest reason is cost. If we [the school district] don’t have someone who starts early, there would need to be more buses because we could not spread out all of the bus runs. By having varied start times, you can use the same buses and the same drivers, keeping the costs down,” Principal Crocetti elaborated.

To most these particulars are small prices to pay.

“I would have more time to sleep in, or if necessary, to wake up early and have some extra time to study for a test,” Daniel Clein, a sophomore, said.

Heather Smith, a junior here at Wellington High disagrees, “In my opinion, the only way it would have a positive impact is if along with the time changes there were a reductions in the amounts of homework.”

There is no doubt that high schools should start later as great rewards like improved grades and lower rates of depression are reaped when school push back that dreaded first bell. Unfortunately, this adjustment cannot be made without the painful logistical changes. Perhaps one day high school students will be freed from the terrible burden that is the 6:00 am morning alarm.