Does the Early Bird Really Get the Worm?


Whether or not to delay school start times has long been something people across the nation have considered. Proponents argue a later time allows for students to get more sleep and therefore be healthier overall, which can lead to more academic success. Opponents of the change argue that a later start time could both clash with parents’ work schedules and cause students to have less time after school for extracurricular activities, socializing, and homework, as a later start time would inevitably also mean a later end time. 

The main pro of later school start times is the effect it would have on the health of students and subsequently, their safety and academics. Starting school at a later time makes students much more likely to get the 8-10 hours to sleep that doctors recommend they get. That’s 8-10 hours of sleep, according to the National Education Association, over two-thirds of high schoolers don’t get. The sleep situation has gotten so substandard, in fact, that the Center of Disease Control (CDC), American Psychological Association (APA), and the American Sleep Association (ASA) have all recommended that schools roll back start times, with their bare-minimum starting time being around 8:30. For reference, according to the National Education Association, the average school start time in America as of now is only a couple minutes after 8 AM. 

An increase in sleep caused by later school start times has numerous benefits. These benefits have been found by numerous studies to include academic improvement, enhanced cognitive functions, a lower likelihood of addiction, better mental health, and a decreased likelihood of early-morning car crashes caused by still sleepy students trying to get to school according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Overall, it is evident that later school start times and thereby, an increase in sleep for students, has many physical and mental health benefits.  

However, the main detriment of later school start times is the chaos it causes in relation to scheduling. The average adult works a 9-5 job. However, because most adults also commute and have to do several other things in the morning, according to SleepCycle, the average American wakes up a little after 7 AM. This falls in line with a reasonable wake up time for students assuming that their school starts at 8 AM. Therefore, schools starting a bit earlier allow for parents and the children to complete their morning routines and start the day together. Additionally, schools starting before jobs allow parents to have the option to drop their kids off at school before they head off to work. If schools started later, potentially after work, this opportunity would be taken away from countless parents. Furthermore, starting schools later and thereby having them end later, would likely place many students’ commute to and from school right in the midst of rush hour, adding to the traffic and transportation time. 

On top of all of this, starting school later would obviously mean ending school later as well. This would lead to extracurricular activities also having to be pushed back. Less time at the end of the day would also mean students would have less time to complete their homework, something that could lead to students staying up even later in order to finish it, which would essentially cause them to lose even more sleep and counteract the purpose of shifting back school times. Furthermore, many students also have after-school jobs and if school times were shifted back, they may have to give up this source of income. 

In summary, it’s clear that schedules would have to be dramatically altered to factor in a potential school-timing shift.  

There are evidently two sides to this debate. On one side, pushing back school start times, would have many health benefits and is recommended by innumerable doctors. The other, to keep school start times where they are, tends to make the lives of students, parents, and schools alike easier. As of now, the official start time for Morris Hills is 8:05 AM. Additionally, Z-Block for Academy students begins at 7:18 AM. The entire school lets out at 3:02 PM. According to Dr. Toriello, some of Morris Hills’ main concerns at this point with pushing back school times would be how bus sharing would work with Morris Knolls, how extracurriculars would function at a later time, and how pushing back start times would affect staff members’ child care situation. At this point, there are no plans to push back school start times here. There is no clear answer to this debate and with the choice of either side, sacrifices will have to be made.