This is the first of several feature articles we are publishing which were written by Boothbay Region High School’s AP Language students. According to BRHS AP Language teacher Mark Gorey, the articles are a different incarnation of their Champions of Change proposals. One of the requirements for this assignment was to cite research sources.
Today in America our school systems face an issue of paramount importance—how to enable students to come into school fully rested and ready to learn.
Here at Boothbay Region High School, our ﬁrst class starts at 8:03, which is on par with the country average (Rettner). But that is still too early. Many experts suggest that schools should start no earlier than 8:30, yet many schools still have start times drastically earlier than what’s recommended.
As a result, schools are teeming with students who just can’t stay awake, can’t focus, and can’t do much of anything during the early parts of the day. As one of the many students who frequently come to school tired and unable to focus (although this is my last year), I think that pushing back our school start time to at least 8:30 will have positive beneﬁts for not only the current students but future generations to come.
In the United States today 60% of children under the age of 18 complain to their parents that they are tired and a further 15% of those kids fall asleep during their day at school (“School Start Time & Sleep”).
When kids are tired or sleep deprived they not only ﬁnd it difficult to focus but they are also more likely to have depression, be obese, or use illegal substances. In a survey given to our school’s population, when asked how often they come to school tired and unable to focus they responded thus: 36.5% said “sometimes,” 32.9% said “often,” and 17.6% said “always.”
This problem of students being tired has a big eﬀect on ﬁrst-period classes, which go from 8:03-9:15. As Mr. Powell—a math teacher here at BRHS who’s teaching a ﬁrst-period class—puts it: “Half my class looks like they are about to fall asleep.” Research shows that kids’ sleep cycle biologically changes as they enter their teenage years. This change causes them to be predisposed to going to sleep later and consequently waking up later (Barnes). Mr. Powell agrees that our school’s start time should be pushed back for these reasons.
Recent studies into the eﬀect of later school start times on students have shown the numerous beneﬁts to a later start time. Minnesota’s Edina School District had the start time pushed back to 8:30 for all the schools in their district. As a result, students began being more awake and involved in their ﬁrst class; the principal saw a notable drop in the number of disciplinary incidents; and a staggering 92% of parents said that their children became “easier to live with” (Wahlstrom).
Changing the start time is something our school has been considering. When asked about the idea, Dan Welch, principal of BRHS, said: “It is something we want to do but there’s a lot of things to consider.”
An option would be to move things around in the schedule. Earlier in the year, Mr. Powell put out a survey to teachers and staﬀ members regarding the current schedule. In talking with Mark Gorey, an English teacher at BRHS, I learned that a majority of teachers and staﬀ members who answered the survey don’t believe that the current schedule is the best for students and staﬀ.
My idea would be to take out almost all of the mid-morning break, as well as ten minutes of CORE (a time in our schedule when students can seek out help from teachers regarding assigned work). The mid-morning break goes from 10:30 to 11:00 every single day and the majority of students who answered the AP Language survey said that they don’t use the time for any academic reasons. So removing a good chunk of this break and some of CORE, would allow us to start school at 8:30 but also keep our release time around 2:30. Mr.Powell came up with an exact schedule for this idea (see above graphic).
The plan isn’t perfect. The later start time would cause legitimate problems with the buses, which also cater to the elementary and Edgecomb schools. While the plan isn’t perfect, the beneﬁt that will come from students being able to get a full eight hours of sleep would help all students at BRHS.
Allowing students to get the sleep they need should be of the utmost importance. Although my plan is not perfect, it would allow students to get the sleep they need in order to be productive in school. If we want our students to have the best chance of learning and getting the most out of high school, they must have the chance to come to school fully rested.
Barnes, et al. “Setting Adolescents up for Success: Promoting a Policy to Delay High School Start Times.” Journal of School Health, 30 June 2016, eric.ed.gov/?q=high school school start time&id=EJ1102874.
Gorey, Mark. 31 May. 2019. Interview.
Powell, Ben. 7 May. 2019. Interview.
Rettner, Rachael. “School Start Times in U.S. States: Full List.” LiveScience, Purch, 6 Aug. 2015, www.livescience.com/51777-school-start-times-states.html.
“School Start Time & Sleep.” National Sleep Foundation, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/school-start-time-and-sleep.
Wahlstrom, Kyla L. “Later Start Time for Teens Improves Grades, Mood, and Safety - Kyla L. Wahlstrom, 2016.” SAGE Journals, journals.sagepub.com/ doi/10.1177/0031721716681770.
Welch, Dan. 31 May. 2019. Interview.