After students’ return from winter break, the upper school schedule was modified to include a later 9:30 a.m. start time. The Eagle Edition believes that the school schedule should continue to include this later start time even after COVID-19 precautions are lifted.
There are numerous benefits to starting the school day at a later time. For instance, this large chunk of free time in the morning means that clubs and sports have ample time to host productive meetings and practices rather than rushing through a short session. There is also likely to be more attendance during morning meetings, since those meetings can be held at a later time. Furthermore, students can participate in a greater variety of extracurricular activities because there are more meeting slots for clubs to host meetings—students don’t have to pick and choose which club meetings to attend even if those clubs all meet in the same morning, because now there are multiple club meeting time slots.
Additionally, students who live far away from the school have more time to make that long commute, reducing tardiness. A later start time also gives students more time to eat breakfast, instead of rushing off to school without the most important meal of the day. This policy would also be helpful for students with family responsibilities, particularly, the supervision of their younger siblings—a late start means that it is easier for these students to drop off their siblings at school and still make it to class on time.
It has been increasingly proven that the biological clock of teenagers makes it hard for teens to fall asleep early; therefore, it is difficult for teens to wake up early. An early start disrupts the natural biological clock of teenagers and their circadian rhythms, which causes many health issues, like issues with digestion, heart rate, body temperature, immune system function, attention span and mental health.
Teenagers need at least 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep, however, multiple studies have shown that high school students are among the most sleep-deprived groups. Sleep deprivation has been linked to anxiety, depression, reduced academic performance, physical health issues and impaired decision-making among teens. It’s a serious issue that needs to be prioritized. A 2018 study conducted by researchers at the University of Washington and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies showed that Seattle teens were able to get more sleep after start times were pushed back.
Furthermore, those students’ academic performance improved—final grades were 4.5 percent higher and tardies and first-period absences dropped. A late start means that students get more sleep, benefiting their mental and physical health and the classroom. Students who are not sleep-deprived are much more focused and contribute more to the learning experience of their fellow classmates as well as demonstrate improved academic performance. Additionally, more sleep means that students are happier, bettering the academic environment.
There is no negative consequence to keeping a later start—only benefits. After COVID-19 is over, going back to the normal schedule with an 8:45 a.m. start would allow us to have five classes a day and flex. However, having only four classes a day with a later start is another benefit because it means students’ days aren’t as jam-packed with tests and quizzes, further reducing stress and potentially improving mental health.