Sleep is a biological need…a need that very few teenagers are able to fulfill. High school students should be getting around 8-10 hours of sleep (Otman). However, Mrs. Smith’s first block Honors English II class gets an average 6.947 hours of sleep per night. Many believe school start times greatly affect the amount of sleep students receive. Pushing back Jefferson City High School’s start time 2 hours will decrease the number of car crashes that occur on school grounds, help improve mental health, and lead to better grades because students will get more sleep. Car crashes will occur less frequently because students will be more awake when they drive.
Dr. Robert Vorona, a professor at Eastern Virginia Medical school did a study comparing the car crash rates in 2008 at Virginia Beach High School and Chesapeake High School, two similar high schools located in similar cities (Holohan). Virginia started at 7:20 a.m. while Chesapeake began at 8:40 a.m (Holohan). The study showed that Chesapeake had 4.62% car crashes and Chesapeake had 6.54% (Holohan). While the relation may not be direct, officials belive students at Virgina High School are sleep deprived. While the decrease in teen car crashes is a good thing, school officials’ main problem with later start times are the costs. There will have to be many changes to busing schedules that will lead to more expenses (Breus). However, new research proves later start times for secondary schools will generate economic advantages that will outweigh the bus costs (Breus). According to a study by the RAND Corporation (and RAND Europe) moving school start times to 8:30 a.m. could contribute to $9.3 billion to the U.S. economy in one year (Breus).
Car accidents account for many teenage deaths, therefore, providing less labor which hurts the economy (Breus). However, if later start times are implemented, car crashes decrease, and more teenagers will live and work which positively effects the economy (Breus). There is a a mental health epidemic across the world and it is affecting teens most of all (Ladd). According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, high school and middle school students who lack sleep suffer from physical and mental problems (“Teens Need Later School Start Time, Doctors Say.”). Professor Jack Pelz, a professor at Daemon College conducted a study in which almost 200 students across the nation were told to complete a simple survey about their sleep hygiene and family life (“Earlier School Start Times May Increase Risk of Adolescent Depression and Anxiety, URMC Study Says”).
Then they were told to keep track of their daily sleep habits (quantity and quality) and depressive/anxiety symptoms over the course of a week (“Earlier School Start Times May Increase Risk of Adolescent Depression and Anxiety, URMC Study Says”). The results suggest that good sleep hygiene benefit students no matter when they go to school (“Earlier School Start Times May Increase Risk of Adolescent Depression and Anxiety, URMC Study Says”). Nevertheless, schools consisting of start times after 8:30 a.m. show a small but positive effect on mental health (“Earlier School Start Times May Increase Risk of Adolescent Depression and Anxiety, URMC Study Says”). While any mental health benefit is important, working parents will have to come up with several hours of after-school care now that high school siblings won’t be home. While after/before school programs and babysitters exist, they usually cost money that some parents simply don’t have (Campbell).
Parents, school officials, and school districts will have to come up with a solution. In Jefferson City, there already is a solution in place-S.T.E.A.M., a free after-school program located at both Lewis and Clark Middle School and Thomas Jefferson Middle School. This is where utilitarianism comes into play; school officials must do what is right for the most amount of people. After-school programs such as S.T.E.A.M. will actually benefit elementary students while middle school and high school students get more sleep. Better performances in grades can be seen in schools that have pushed back their times. Students that are not getting enough sleep may result in problems with creativity, memory, decision-making, organization, and attention, all of which are vital for success in school. (Mindell and Owens). Dr. Wahlstrom from the University of Minnesota studied a group of more than 7,000 high school students (“A. Academic Performance”). He found that teens with a 4.0 had, on average, fifteen more minutes of sleep than students with 3.0’s who in turn averaged eleven more minutes than the 2.0’s and the 2.0’s had ten more minutes of sleep than the 1.0’s (“A. Academic Performance”).
Study after study proves more sleep results in countless benefits. On the other hand, there is less time to get homework, sports, jobs done. Mrs. Moore, a high school English teacher at JCHS believes there shouldn’t be a two-hour delay in school start times every day. She explains her view by saying older students have after-school activities, take care of younger siblings, jobs, etc. If JC were to end at 4:55 many students wouldn’t be able to do all of these things (Moore). The same can be said for teachers. They don’t make a lot of money so many teachers have second jobs after school (Moore). They also have to take care of their family. Some are lifelong learners meaning they still go to college after school (Moore). If course programs start at 5, they won’t be able to go to class on time (Moore). While this change in start times might be difficult to deal with at first, the importance of sleep outweighs this argument. Puberty physically effects the body’s biological clock (Breus). The increase of melatonin during puberty is delayed as much as three hours every circadian rhythm (24 hours) (Breus). This shift results in teens feeling alert at night and tired in the morning.
So, when adults yawn at 9 p.m., teens feel like it is around 6 p.m. and when adults wake up at 6 a.m., teenagers feel like it is 3 a.m. (Breus). Not only are teens biologically hard-wired to be awake at night, but they also have to balance sports, clubs, a social life, family, a job, and school (Breus). Early bedtimes are difficult for parents to enforce on teens so the best solution is later school start times. Times are changing in Jefferson City, Missouri. No longer is it a small sleepy town Missourians don’t think twice about. It is an expanding city where families across the country are moving to. Next year there will be two high schools and a seven-block schedule so the school board should also push later school start times. To find proof, look to schools who have made the change (Otman). While it hasn’t happened in a lot of districts, teens who are able to sleep longer are more alert throughout the day (Otman). Students will, are, and have benefited from a 2 hour later start time because it leads to fewer car accidents, better mental health, and an improvement in grades in the past, present, and future.
- “A. Academic Performance.” The Impact of School Start Times on Adolescent Health and Academic Performance, 14 Nov. 2017, https://schoolstarttime.org/early-school-start-times/academic-performance/. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018. Breus, Micheal J.
- “How School Start Times Affect the Economy.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 22 Dec. 2017, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/sleep-newzzz/201712/how-school-start-times-affect-th e-economy. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018. Cambell, Leah.
- “Research Shows Early School Start Times Are Bad for Kids’ Health.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 13 Aug. 2018, https://www.healthline.com/health-news/early-school-start-times-bad-for-kids-health#8. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018.
- “Earlier School Start Times May Increase Risk of Adolescent Depression and Anxiety, URMC Study Says.” University of Rochester Medical Center, University of Rochester Medical Center, 2 Oct. 2017, www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/5146/earlier-school-start-times-may-increase-risk–of- adolescent-depression-and-anxiety-urmc-study-says.aspx. Accessed 8 Dec. 2018. Holohan, Ellin.