School start times should be delayed to benefit student well-being

A later start time could help but it won’t solve all student stress

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artwork by Jasmine Tan

As the Midway sees it…

There’s nothing worse for a high school student than the sound of an alarm ripping them away from precious hours of sleep. Few question this seemingly archaic ritual of starting school early that only gained popularity in the 1970s.

In the face of growing scientific consensus, U-High should delay school start times to 8:30 a.m. to promote student wellness.

The circadian rhythm of adolescents is different than that of adults, often leading teens to feel unable to go to sleep until 11 p.m. By then, with an early school start, it is too late to get the 9.25 hours of sleep recommended by the American Psychological Association to optimally function and remain healthy.

Results of Lab’s 2019 Health and Wellness survey show high school students sleep an average of seven hours on a school night, far below the recommended amount. Not getting enough sleep during adolescence has been linked with a higher risk of obesity, diabetes, injury, poor mental health and problems with attention and behavior according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though delaying the start of school may initially seem far-fetched, the growing number of schools who switch observe many positive results including higher grades, a decrease in sports-related injuries, higher levels of engagement during class and a higher attendance rate. Additionally, parent-led groups in the school are already advocating for a later start time to the administration.

Seattle Public Schools began a later start time beginning in 2016. Though initial concerns suggested a later-starting school day would negatively affect sports teams or clubs, such concerns were eventually accommodated or deemed a worthwhile sacrifice for the many benefits provided. The American Association for the Advancement of Science concluded that the grades of a student in an average school in Seattle increased by a median of 4.5% for every 34 minutes that the start of school was delayed.

Though later start times for schools are a great idea with many significant benefits, students should be reluctant to expect a complete reversal of all stress and anxiety.

A 2019 study, published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and
Medicine states that students in high-achieving schools like Lab are “at risk” for more anxiety due to their high-pressure, hyper-competitive environments.

This is a cultural problem that can only be addressed in the long-term and on a societal scale. It cannot be solved simply by delaying the time that schools start.

In summary, delaying the start of school to 8:30 a.m. would have significant benefits including higher grades, and while it is not a comprehensive solution for student stress, it is a substantial step in the right direction.

This represents the opinion of the Midway Editorial Board