Written By: Jessica Lemon, junior and Racquell Schramski, sophomore
As we near the end of the year, both staff and students are starting to dread the sound of their alarm clocks. Rising before the sun just doesn’t seem to get any easier. Yet, early start times have been part of the rhythm of school for as long as any of us could remember.
Could it be possible, though, that this practice is actually harming students? Research from The National Sleep Foundation, as well as many other resources, shows that teens today don’t get an adequate amount of sleep each night. They propose high schools push their start times to later in the day.
An article from the National Sleep Foundation titled ”Later School Start Times: Benefits and Cons,” advocates that teens should be get anywhere from eight to 14 hours of sleep a night. The average American high school student gets consistently under seven hours a night due to busy schedules and a circadian rhythm that doesn’t line up with school schedules. In 2014, they proposed that high school start times be set at no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Students and staff, alike, have a lot to say on the matter.
English Teacher and Outdoor club Advisor Joshua McCreedy has students write researched arguments on the school start time topic yearly. Based on the facts about sleep deprivation in teens, McCreedy personally agrees with the claims made in the NSF study. McCreedy states, “We are fighting biology by having these start times.”
McCreedy is referring to the current 7:21 a.m. Holly High School start time. “Sleep hormones in teens don’t set in until 11 p.m. at night; and with the crazy 7:21 a.m. start time, it’s just not enough,” adds McCreedy.
Junior Max Ford is also in support of later school start times. “There have been quite a few studies done that show students actually perform better when they have more time to sleep in. I mean, getting up at six in the morning is kind of ridiculous.”
Junior Victoria Karakuc also says she would benefit from later school start times. She has personally seen the benefits its had for her friends in different districts. “I know some schools have late start Wednesdays, and everyone I’ve talked to really likes it,” she explains.
McCreedy acknowledges that student’s choices are partly to blame for their lack of sleep. “Lots of students have things they do after school: work, sports, clubs, etc. But it is also partially their fault, because they spend so much time on their electronics. The light of a phone or TV doesn’t allow students’ bodies to fully relax at night,” states McCreedy.
Personally, he tries to avoid the light of any screen an hour before going to bed, resorting to reading a book or magazine before falling asleep. “I’m usually in bed by 9 p.m or 9:30 p.m on week days,” he said, “but it’s not as easy for students. They don’t start to feel tired until closer to 11 p.m, and they’re not as alert in the morning.”
McCreedy’s argument does not fall on deaf ears. HAS Superintendent Dave Nuss agrees. “If we really did what was best for students and learning, we would start elementary school between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m, and the high school would start around 9-9:30 a.m,” states Nuss. However, he explained that it isn’t as simple as just flipping the schedules.
One of the biggest obstacles HAS face is getting students to school on time. “Our bussing is what we call a one-teared system. The drivers go pick up all of the high school and middle schoolers, drop them off, and then go right to their route for the elementary schools,” Nuss explains, “Every day, our buses go the equivalent of Florida and back in mileage, over 1200 miles every day. It takes a lot to cover 124 square miles.”
Holly is the biggest district in the Flint Metro League, extending into Davisburg and parts of White Lake and Clarkston. Because of this, some kids spend around 45 minutes on the bus every morning.
Another obstacle HAS face is the necessity to stay synced up with other Flint Metro League school schedules. Athletics and other extra curricular activities potentially would be affected by conflicting school start and end times.
Ford expressed this concern when explaining his support for later school start times. Fords mentions, “If we changed our schedule, we would have to do it on a regional level in order for it to work with sports and everything.”
Nuss explains, “If we separately changed our schedule, all of our sports meets would have to be delayed so that we would be on time, and the other schools would need to compromise.”
It isn’t easy to convince an entire league of schools to change a system that has been in place for years, and that’s exactly what would need to be done in order to change start times.
Staff members are clearly in support of later school start times, but some students have an alternate idea. Junior D’ereka Sawyer doesn’t see a problem with the current start time, but she feels school days should be shorter altogether. “I don’t feel like we need to be here for eight hours every day,” Sawyer states, “it is too long of a time for people to be expected to pay attention and on top of that people have homework after school.”
Sawyer is a diver and a majorette. When she is in season, she has more than two hours of practice a night. “During sports seasons, I get home anywhere between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. most days. On some days, I spend almost four hours on homework, lending me no time to get good sleep,” Sawyer adds.
Juniors Hannah Muth and Taylor McAnich agree with Sawyer. “I would support later start times, but I don’t want to get out any later in the day,” shares Muth.
“I know that if school starts later, I won’t get up early to do what I need to do. If school gets out later in the day, I would just have less time to get things done,” comments McAnich
Sawyer remembers the difference between high school and middle school start times. “When I was in middle and elementary school, we started at 8 a.m. Even though that’s only 40 minutes, it makes a huge difference.” Sawyer says.
Although there isn’t a clear solution to this problem, the arguments made by staff and students are strong.