Op-Ed: The controversy behind start times
November 30, 2018
Since Poudre School District’s board of education made the decision to change school times on November 27, students have been having mixed reactions. Recent research has been the primary reason this decision has been made, and a lot of time and thought went into creating a future plan. Despite the benefits, the change has received quite a bit of pushback from students and parents, and it continues to be a concern for many asking, “now what?” The decision has been officially made and it is unclear if there will be any future alterations, but for now all who will be effected by it are continuing to examine pros and cons.
Later start aims to improve student mental health
Recent scientific discoveries have shown how much of a critical thing sleep is, especially for high schoolers. Data has shown time and time again why teenagers who are growing both mentally and physically need the time to sleep more, getting an average of eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep every night.
Another study concluded that teens have a difficult time functioning mentally before 8:30 a.m. and said that students need the extra time to wake up and function to their full ability. The studies showed that sleeping less can negatively affect obesity, type 2 diabetes, and even strokes. In addition, there have been strong ties to mental health being improved with more sleep, and seeing as mental health is essential to learning, the later start time will accommodate that. Not to mention, car crashes and tardies will be lessened, and an improvement on standardized tests such as the SAT will be gained by the change. The science is undeniable – there are so many benefits to increased sleep.
The Poudre School District Board of Education voted on the movement for the later start time 7-0, clearly seeing the benefits of the later start time for the high schoolers. One key point of information that was discussed during the meeting was the survey that was sent out to parents, students, teachers, and community members. This survey showed that modified option B was the most popular of the plans for change.
In addition, on the survey, people could leave comments and many were in support of the change. As Cathy Kipp from the school board said, “I am not willing to wait, and continue to risk the health, mental and physical, of our students in Poudre School District because we are afraid to move forward and make change.”
Some of the complaints about the change have and will be solved. One of the most common complaints among students and parents is after school activities and sports being pushed too late into the night. Many of these things will last longer and go further into the night, but other solutions can be put into place. Sports could meet in the morning, which could actually be beneficial because of the physical activity before school. If this turns out not to be an option, Poudre School District is prepared to pay to light fields and courts to allow for the later practices.
Another argument is that homework would be too difficult to complete after the other various activities that take place after school. However, homework could be worked on during off periods, before school, or right after activities. The Board of Education also said that they are willing to work with athletes and coaches to find the best fit for students.
A concern among some students is not being able to make it to jobs in time. Many employers rely on high schoolers to support their business; with the new start and end time, employers will be more understanding of students having to come late because all high schoolers will have to come later. Two districts in Colorado have adopted this later start time, and 46 states have also begun using this start time with success, proving that the problems can be solved and will not be insurmountable.
Change takes time – the new start times will not be the end of the world. While the new start time may seem like a big deal right now, in the long run they will provide help for many around the school.
Teens need a solution, this is not it
When looking at statistics about teens needing more sleep, it is easy to believe that changing start times will be beneficial to high school students. Ideally, starting school later in the morning will allow students more time to sleep, improving their overall health and helping to enhance performance in school. However, when considering all of the things that are going to be pushed later besides school, I do not think this change will help students.
Although I like the idea of starting school later and being able to sleep in every day, ending the day at a later time will have multiple negative effects on my life outside of the classroom. I, like so many others at Fossil Ridge High School, have to stay up ridiculously late to complete all my homework each night. For me, homework does not usually start until around 8 p.m. because of dance practices after school, and ending at 4 p.m. will shift the entire dynamic of my day. I spend hours on homework each day regardless of when I start, and starting homework at a later time means finishing at a later time. To get everything done, I will be staying up even later and will get the same amount or less sleep than I currently do. I rarely get more than five to six hours of sleep, and I do not believe starting school later will fix this issue. I have not slept in for a single late start this year. I either get up early to finish work, or I go into school early to complete work I missed from being absent. If school started at 9 a.m, I would probably still get up very early.
I have heard from countless other students who do not like this change because of their extracurricular activities, sports, or jobs. People are going to have less flexibility with their jobs because of school ending at a later time. Additionally, some athletic programs at Fossil plan on taking advantage of the time before school to hold practices, and these students may end up getting up earlier than they currently do to attend such practices. Athletics will also go later into the evening, which means it will cost the district more to keep field lights on. Students will have less time to do homework in the evenings. Some students who travel for athletics already have to leave school in the middle of the day, normally missing one class period on game days. School starting later will mean student athletes will miss even more class time, and keeping up with missing so much school during the busy sports seasons will be another obstacle for them.
Transportation to and from school is another major concern for many students. Some students who cannot drive yet rely on their parents to drive them to school on the way to work. School starting in 9 a.m. will mean these parents will already be at work, and students are concerned about how they will get to school. Those who have to drive a long way to get to school may get to wake up later, but they will also get home much later, and in the winter will have to drive at night to get home. For new drivers, driving at night is more dangerous, and the risk of having an accident is raised. Some students drive their younger siblings to elementary and middle school if their parents are unable to do so. With the shifting times, elementary and middle schools will end earlier than high school, and it will be difficult to figure out how to get transportation after school. These younger siblings are going to have to wait a few hours before being able to be picked up.
The main reason this decision was made was because there is a concern about students not getting enough sleep. However, shifting the school session is not going to fix this problem. If students have the same amount of homework, they are going to have later nights trying to get it all finished. If the school board really wants to improve health and performance in school, they need to find ways to reduce student stress, accommodate outside activities, and make the workload outside of school smaller. I do believe that teens should get more sleep, and many of my health issues recently could have been caused by the lack of it. However, this will not solve the problem.
Even though Poudre School District took many surveys and thought a lot about the decision, I feel like student voices were not really heard. It seems like they put out a survey just to say that they got other’s input, and then made their own decision. School is going to start a whole hour and a half later next year, and I do not know if there is any way to change this decision now that it has been made. Leading up to the next school year, I hope that the school can find ways to create a good schedule and accommodate everyone’s transportation and academic needs. I truly want to believe that this will be a good change, but I cannot ignore all of the obstacles in the way.