Starting school later? Science says ‘yes’

Kayla Doll, Staff Member

From the beginning, school has always started around the same time that adults leave for work, which for most of the year is before the sun rises. Not only does this leave kids fairly tired for the majority of the school day, it damages their health.

“It’s a matter of biology, not choice that teenagers are unable to fall asleep before about 10:45pm and that their brains remain in ‘sleep mode’ until about 8am,” said Kyla Wahlstorm of the Center for Applied Research and Educational improvement (CAREI).

CAREI found that starting school an hour later than before helped with fewer disciplinary incidents and students reported feeling less depressed and more feelings of greater efficacy.

“Sleep deprived teens struggle to learn, have greater risk for depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, sports injury and car accidents. Delayed start times may even lead to a decrease in the achievement gap between students from low and high socioeconomic backgrounds,” Cindy Jatul of Seattle Education Association said.

Although science has shown the positive attributes of starting school later, many people argue that making the changes would affect the adults/parents of students, especially for those that get to work after dropping off their children.

“Many junior and senior highs start before 8am and the average working parent(s) are required to get to work directly after dropping their kids off. By pushing back the times, the 30-minute window that the parents have to get to work from dropping their kids off would have to change, meaning less hours at work and less annual income” Wahlstorm said.

If school districts changed the timing of the school day, that would demand transportation departments and businesses adjust so that they would correspond to when kids needed to get to school. This allows the morning rush and the sun to rise before students head to school which would create a safer route to school without the morning hassle.

“Early start times for a school require children to get to school in the dark. They might be waiting at the bus stop in the dark, not fully aware of their surroundings. For younger children, they also have the threat of being home alone after school if there are no daycare or after school options. Starting school at a later time reduces these issues, even if it does put more pressure on the morning routine for parents” Jatul said.

Because Omaha is considered a metropolitan area with many students and transportation issues, I ran a poll on our Burke Journalism Instagram account and asked our followers if they would like having school start at a later time. Among those that voted “yes” to push it back, Amanda Wolf said she would change it to around 8:30am instead of 7:40am.

“Seven-forty is way too early and for some kids. They have to work at night and don’t get home until late just to repeat the cycle. Starting later would help us get more sleep so we don’t fall asleep in class” Wolf said.

Many of Burke students agree that adjusting the time would be beneficial for their health and for their overall grades. However, it’s not only the student body that is for delaying the school day. Teachers, like Spanish teacher Zaida Falcon, would be allowed more time outside of school to connect with loved ones and attend personal meetings, just like every other adult.

“Starting at 8:30am would allow me to spend more time with my son and husband in the morning. It would also be easier to go to quick medical appointments” Falcon said.

The Omaha Public School district haven’t addressed if pushing back to times could be in effect in the future, but as more scientific research comes to the surface to justify the negative effects of early school days, districts will be more inclined to change the times so that students can receive better testing scores. I can only hope that OPS will be on the forefront, paving the way for what is scientifically best for students in their district.