Should Schools Start Later?

By Neveah Alston, Cheyenne Wilson, Ayanna Mackall, Ariana Rice

Every regular school day at Huntingtown High School begins at 7:25 am. However, this isn’t the case for all schools in the state of Maryland. Some schools, such as those in Anne Arundel County, begin as early as 7:17 AM. Others, like Garrett County, have schools that begin at 8:25. Both Garrett and Anne Arundel County Public Schools have quality high schools, so it begins to raise the question: Should high schools start later?

To answer this question, we need to first look at the potential benefits of a later school start. It’s no secret that kids are prone to stay up later, especially considering new technologies and social media. Studies by The National Center for Biotechnology have shown that adolescents have a harder time going to sleep earlier than children and adults. Teen’s sleep patterns usually cause them to fall asleep around 11 PM and wake up at 8 AM, on average. Organizations like “School Start Later” advocate for a later start time in schools nationwide to provide the best education to students. They develop the idea that kids are being put to a disadvantage by having earlier start times because of the resulting sleep deprivation and safety issues of driving while tired. It is also important to note that private institutions usually don’t begin school earlier than 8 AM, which may be a cause of the achievement gap between private and public schooling.

But what are the effects of a later start time? If schools began later, they would have to end later as a result. This would cause clubs, tutoring programs and athletics to end later as well, probably after dark. For many students, the time they would have to do homework, socialize, do chores or even spend time with family would decrease. Student workers, like Chris Hogue, say that a change would disrupt the balance between work, home and school. “I already feel pressured because it’s my junior year and I have tons of AP classes,” he adds, “but leaving school later would mean I wouldn’t have an opportunity to work during the school week”.

Most of Huntingtown’s students we talked with agree that they would simply go to sleep later if they could go to school later. “It wouldn’t really change anything in my day-to-day,” says junior Audry Rush, “I would still have the same work load, and I would still spend the same amount of time on homework, so why change it?” When asked, only 3 out of 15 students could list true benefits of beginning school later. Many of the students polled liked the idea of a later school time, but once informed about the change to their after-school schedule, took a middle-ground approach to the issue.