Are High Schools Starting Too Early?

Early start times can negatively affect students and their success within school. Pushing the start time for high schools back just one hour would be extremely beneficial to the school, faculty and students. Photo Courtesy of Olivia Fontaine.

One of the most debated issues involving high schools and the students attending them is the daily start time. As of now, most schools nationwide demand an earlier arrival time as school grade levels progress. For example, middle schools start earlier than elementary, and high schools earlier than middle schools.

This process, in my opinion, is completely backwards.

As students grow older, they are expected to complete more work at a higher level of thinking. High schoolers are assigned homework, which they then spend several hours on. It is very important that school officials and staff take students’ workloads into account when assigning homework. The later students stay up completing assignments, the less time they have to catch up on much needed sleep.

It is important to consider students with after school jobs, who have less time to complete assignments outside of school. It’s absolutely imperative that each student is allowed appropriate time to complete their tasks and receive enough sleep for the next day of school. I would argue that setting back high school starting times would give all students an adequate amount of time to complete their work and get a healthy amount of sleep.

A large quantity of high schoolers drive themselves in order to get to school each day. Lack of sleep not only affects the student’s mood and awareness during school, but also their alertness while driving. It is extremely dangerous to drive while tired, yet hundreds of students do it every morning. An article by AASM states, “teen drivers who start class earlier in the morning are involved in significantly more motor vehicle accidents than peers with a later high school start time.” It is absurd that schools systems expect students who drive to wake up and drive that early.

A number of tests and studies have been conducted to record students’ behavior while lacking sleep. According to the CDC, “being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs” are all common health risks that accompany a lack of sleep. As each study is conducted, more and more officials are arguing to start high schools later. The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement, pushing for middle and high schools to start at 8:30 a.m. or any time following. With medically trained workers emphasizing the importance of sleep, it should be clear that this problem needs to be addressed.  

Although this is a critical problem, there are issues that would accompany later start times. As we know, many high school students have jobs that they work once school is released. Starting schools later would mean releasing schools later, which might limit the availability and convenience of these workers.

While this might be a common issue for students, it is nothing compared to the short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation. In my opinion, self-care should always come first, and school systems need to take a second look to ensure all policies are providing that to students.


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