Many schools start class between 8:00 and 8:45 a.m, but in some areas, school may start as early as 7:15. Proponents of starting school later claim that a delayed start time more closely mimics a child's natural sleep pattern, especially for teens, and can lead to better health and performance in school. Even though there are some potential drawbacks to schools beginning the day later, they are minor compared to the many advantages.
According to WebMD, children and teens need an average of about nine hours of sleep per night. In some cases, an early start time means that kids are not getting the sleep they need. Lack of sleep can lead to many health and emotional problems, such as making kids more prone to injury, problems with learning and changes in mood or behavior. Sleep loss can also increase the risk for more serious problems like obesity, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
Improvements in School
Schools that have experimented with later start times have shown improvements in several areas, as reported by the Psychology Today website. In Minnesota, a later start time led to better attendance and less tardiness. Some students reported feeling more alert and efficient and as a result they were able to complete more homework. In a middle-school in Massachusetts, a later start meant that students didn't fall asleep in school as often and had better grades. Another study at a private high school in Rhode Island showed that pushing the start time back by only 30 minutes, led to better attendance and fewer visits to the school nurse.
A lack of sleep can lead to problems with attention, concentration and slower reaction times. When a school district in Fayette County, Kentucky implemented a later start time in the 1990s, they found a drastic change in one startling statistic. By starting school one hour later, at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m. the district saw a decrease in car accidents for students age 16 to 18, while the rate increased across the rest of the state.
There are some negative drawbacks to a later start time in schools, according to Psychology Today. A late start and may cause conflicts with parents' work schedules, which may cause transportation or supervision issues. It also limits opportunities for after-school sports or other activities, and may make it more difficult for high school students to work part-time after-school jobs.
Houston area native Marie Anderson began writing education articles in 2013. She holds a Bachelor of Science in exercise and sports science and a Master of Science in education administration. She has seven years of teaching and coaching experience within the Texas public school system.