The debate over school start time drifts into the FHC halls

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Jordan Helmbrecht

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Recently, California became the first state in the nation to demand a later school start time. The new legislation was designed so that students can get more sleep and furthermore improve their educational outcomes. This news has brought up the same question all around the country: are we starting school too early?

In most places, middle and high school students are up around 6:30 am and starting school around 7:40 am. And, in most places, these students are getting to bed well too late to get a healthy amount of sleep. This means most students are showing up to school exhausted, unfocused, and not prepared for the school day that lays ahead of them.

School start time has been an ongoing battle for several years. There are challenges that come with keeping it early, and there are challenges that come with pushing it back. Behind each side lays a plethora of opinions.

Having gone to school in his younger life and teaching school now, wrestling coach and world history teacher Brad Anderson has his own thoughts about school start time, beginning with the fact that he believes it needs to be moved back.

“I think a happy medium needs to be found in terms of school start time,” Anderson said. “Even just another thirty minutes would benefit students. Overall, these kids just need more sleep and the 7:45 am start time is not giving them that.”

I wouldn’t say I’m not a morning person, but I’m just not a 6:30 in the morning morning person.”

— Hannah Walters

Every day, several students are sulking into school with swollen eyes and drooping heads. We’ve been told since we were little that sleep is important, but as we grow up, it’s the one thing we seem to get less and less of.

“I think that sleep is the key to students’ success,” Anderson said. “Even on hour delay days, these students are coming to school rejuvenated and much more prepared to take on the day. If these kids get the extra sleep they need through a later start time, I think that their overall health will just be better.”

For a person who has experienced both teaching and learning at 7:45 am, Anderson sure has a lot to back up his opinion with. He believes we need the extra time in the morning that the statistics blatantly show.

Thinking from a new perspective, senior Ella Byam is also stuck on the idea that school start time should be pushed back. She has been waking up at 6:30 am for school for the past six years and she can feel the effect of it.

“I would definitely say that a lack of sleep has an impact on how I perform in class,” Ella said. “I think that for most students it is just hard getting up so early and staying awake during the entire school days. Most days I wish I had even just thirty more minutes to sleep.”

On the other hand, another student who wakes up at the same time as Ella every day has different thoughts. Coming from a school that started later, junior Katie Tellier believes that the current school start time is tolerable.

“At my old school, we started at 8:30 and we would have to go until 3:30 in the afternoon,” Katie said. “By that point, it just feels like your entire day is gone. That’s why I don’t mind the early start time because I get home from school and I still have so much of the day left.”

If we started later, the odds we would have to end later is high. This means that after school there would be less time to get stuff done and people could be leaving school with added stress and anxiety about getting everything done. With the extra time in the morning, this problem could level itself out, but most people haven’t had the opportunity to test it out.  

If the time was moved back I feel like a lot of people could get stressed out. I remember feeling like I had barely any of the day left after starting later at my old school and it could make people anxious about their homework loads.”

— Katie Tellier

Katie has experienced what a later start time is like, and if she had to choose, she would stick with the standard 7:45 am time we have all been accustomed to for our middle and high school lives.

Piggy-backing off of his life experiences through school and his overview of the hundreds of students entering school in the morning, assistant principal John DeStefano’s feelings are strongly on the other end of the debate—he is all for a later start time.

“California actually just mandated later start times,” DeStefano said, “and I honestly think it is awesome. I think we start too early and research and data support the fact that we need a later start time.”

All of these people have their reasons for whether or not the school start time should be altered. There are several things that follow in the footsteps of the school start time, and many of these things come from people’s ability to get up in the morning.

Most people are usually described under the category of night owls or early birds. Whichever category a person falls under could very well determine their opinion on school start time.

For Katie, waking up in the morning is very feasible. In fact, she considers herself a morning person or an early bird.

“I like being up earlier in the morning,” Katie said. “I like seeing the sunrise and feeling like my day is productive from the start.”

At the opposite end of the day, Ella finds herself enjoying being able to sleep in.

“I would say I am more of a night person,” Ella said. “I’ll take sleep whenever I can get it and usually that means sleeping in later and being more awake at night.”

However, not all morning people are for keeping the school start time. Anderson considers himself to be quite the early bird, yet he still believes in a later start time.

“I’m traditionally a morning person for sure,” Anderson said. “I like being up early in the morning, but if there was a later school start time then I would be able to get a lot more done which would work to my benefit.”

With more time in the morning, these early birds could get more done and still be more refreshed for school.

Some people stand in the middle of being an early bird and night owl. Senior Hannah Walters stated the balance perfectly.

“I wouldn’t say I’m not a morning person,” Hannah said, “but I’m just not a 6:30 in the morning morning person.”

Being a morning or night person plays a little role in the school start time debate, but it isn’t a super prominent feature that defines people’s opinions. 

One of the most notable features about the school start time debate is the issues that would come along if the start time were to be pushed back.

Something that would need to be considered before changing the start time would be how the overall school day time would be planned out.

Reasonably speaking, a later start time most likely means a later end time, which is something Katie is not a fan of.

“I feel like the class hours would have to be shortened or the day would have to be lengthened [if school started later],” Katie said. “Teachers probably wouldn’t want to cut their classes short so we would most likely have to go later which I don’t really like.”

On the other hand, there is the possibility of altering the entire school week as a whole.

DeStefano believes that the overall week could be adjusted according to a new start time, and a change in even the number of days we attend school could be beneficial.

“I’m not sure we even need a five day school week, I think we could get everything we need done in four,” DeStefano said. “In terms of the five day week, I think even an 8:30 start time would benefit students. If we did four day weeks, we could just time the day much like a business day. Plus, students would get an extra day to sleep in.”

There are several options for changes that can accustom a later school start time. It is a problem that has a number of solutions, the only issue is picking the most suitable one.

One of the leading issues of moving school start times is athletics—how would we fit them all in if the school day went later?

Anderson is an athletic coach himself and he believes the changes would be easy to adjust to.

“As a varsity coach,” Anderson said, “I would just solve the sports problem by moving practice time. Instead of getting out at 5:15 from practice, we could go until 5:30. I think that the issue with sports timing really wouldn’t be all that negative.”

Anderson would simply push practices back with the pushed back time. Ella believes that there could be complex issues with resolving the outdoor sports timing.

California actually just mandated later start times, and I honestly think it is awesome. I think we start too early and research and data support the fact that we need a later start time.”

— John DeStefano

“Our school has so many sports that I would be curious to see how they would change them if school [start time] was moved back,” Ella said. “Especially with the changing seasons and changing daylight hours, it would be hard to reorganize it all.”

If a change in start time were to be implemented, a series of effects would occur. Considering bus times, athletics, and school time, districts would have a lot to put together after moving school start time.

Between the benefits and disadvantages, people have all different things to say about school start time. 

On the supporting side, a later start time means more sleep for students and more time in the morning for teachers. 

“One thing people don’t think of when determining [school start time] is the fact that several teachers have younger kids that need to get to school,” Anderson said. “It just makes it so there is a lot to do in the morning and it can sometimes be difficult to handle.”

It also could mean an improvement in students’ performances.

“I think [starting later] would improve students’ performance levels, their ability to be aware of their surroundings, and just their overall awakeness during school,” Ella said.

However, it could also mean that students’ have less of their day after school to get stuff done.

“If the time was moved back I feel like a lot of people could get stressed out,” Katie said. “I remember feeling like I had barely any of the day left after starting later at my old school and it could make people anxious about their homework loads.”

The question remains a debate in several states, Michigan being one of them. With people on both sides, the conclusion to school start times could be delayed well into the future for many schools.

For now, FHC remains at its regular start time, but curiosity is certainly flying around questioning if changes will be made in the future due to the California stir-up.

“I think that the fact that California passed actual legislation about school start time made school start time a much more prominent issue,” Ella said. “I’m curious to see how it all plays out and if changes will ever be made here at our school.”