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Triumph Learning Isider

The idea of delaying the school day has been tossed around for a while now. Many school board meetings have covered this topic. There are strong pros and cons to each side of the argument and there is even a national coalition devoted entirely to starting school later.

I know we all want to blame Facebook and texting for the late hours that teens keep, but research suggests that a biological reason is actually the culprit. Teenagers’ circadian rhythms produce melatonin between 11pm and 12am, making it hard for teens to fall asleep and get enough hours of sleep before their wake up call. When they are early to rise there is still melatonin left in their bodies causing them great fatigue and they are basically zombies for the first couple of school periods.

I perused many message boards on this subject and it seemed overwhelmingly that parents of teenagers are in favor of starting the school day later. They cite health and the changing sleep patterns of their teens as the main reasons, as well as their kids' daily struggles to wake up. Others feel that it’s up to the parents to get their kids in bed earlier regardless of any biological happenings, and that these same kids need to have more personal responsibility. I also read comments posted by students. One student said he liked going to school early because then he had more time to do things after school. There is a lot to consider in this debate and opinions are strong.

Adjusting the start of the school day is also a safety concern. Younger students are picked up last so that during the winter they aren’t waiting in the dark. Then there’s the money issue: It would require a great deal of money to make the necessary changes in transportation – we’re talking about millions of dollars to add new pick up times to the schedule. Current school times are set in place because of parents’ work schedules and students’ after-school activities. If school starts later then after-school activities such as sports and clubs gets pushed later and homework isn’t getting done until even later.

How do you feel about this topic? Tapping into my high school self, I would vote for delaying the school day. Writing all of this triggered painful flashbacks to early high school mornings—the zombie feeling stands out to me big time. We’re talking about shifting the morning bell to 8:20am—some schools start as early as 7:00am (gasp!)—that does sound a little more humane, doesn’t it?

What do you think? Should the school day start later? 

Comments (3)

  • Chris Blaum

    Posted on Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 10:23 am

    More benefits for the students to start later. Wish VA would start later. My kids are leaving for the bus at 7:10-7:15am. TOO early.

  • pommefrites

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 4:43 am

    Let's not blame sleepy teens on laziness, irresponsibility or on keeping late hours online. The data and research are in: it's due to biological wiring. Forcing teens to get up for a 6am (or earlier) bus in Fairfax County,VA is akin to forcing kids to go without lunch or forcing a toddler to go without a nap. I am hopeful that the FCPS school board will demonstrate leadership and implement a safe and healthy start time policy for all of its students.

  • Michele Menapace

    Posted on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Commenter Chris Baum's children have it easy compared to the students in Fairfax County, VA. Our high schoolers have a 7:20am starting bell. There are kids in our Northern Virginia county who get on buses at 6:30 and must be up at 5:30.