Some critics say delaying high school start times will disrupt school bus systems and affect transportation, even though there is a simple solution. While they argue schools will need to hire more bus drivers and buses to accommodate more students at the same time, the solution is to flip high school start times with elementary school start times. This requires no extra buses or drivers, rather just a change in the order of pickup. Further, since young children tend to wake up and go to bed earlier, this does not severely impact them. In addition, it’s argued that by delaying start times, after-school activities will have to run later and may hinder the time available for practice and matches. However, school districts that have pushed their start times later actually noticed a surge in participation. Lastly, some believe pushing start times later will create more stress for families and disrupt people’s routines. In reality, many people can easily adjust to change especially if given ample time.
Teenagers are developmentally driven to be late to bed and late to rise. Biological changes in a teenager’s circadian rhythms cause a shift in a teen’s ability to go to bed early, meaning that it is difficult for teens to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. With the recommended 8 ½ -9 ¼ hours of sleep, this would put the wake up time around 8:00 a.m. However, by 8 o’clock most students are already expected to be at school and in their first class, giving students about 6 hours of sleep a night.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can have a plethora of negative effects. This includes alcohol and drug abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, depression, increased chance of obesity, and drowsy driving. Sleep deprivation can also lead to poor school performance, as it is harder to pay attention and stay focused in class. While some may say teens can “catch up” on their sleep on weekends, this does not reverse damage, as it’s impossible to “bank” sleep.
Lastly, many benefits have been associated with later start times including enhanced alertness and improved mood. One study around this was taken from the St. George’s School in Rhode Island. In 2009, around 200 students agreed to participate in a study after the schools’ start time had been pushed from 8:00 am to 8:30 a.m. At the end of the study, the number of students who reported getting at least eight hours of sleep increased, and the number of students who either missed or were late to their class dropped. In addition, the number of students who reported feeling depressed dropped, and more students were awake to eat breakfast.
Pushing high school start times to later in the day will allow teens able to get the necessary amount of sleep and will reap many positive benefits.