Schools Start Too Early

Cameron Thomas

Most schools should later in the day not just because it can be hard for families to deal with, but it can impact health and general well-being. Most people do not like getting up early in the morning and not getting enough sleep can affect your health in a negative way. Whether a person likes getting up early or not, there is scientific evidence that schools should start later.

Most Wake County Public School System high schools start at 7:25 a.m., which can be a difficult start time for some students, especially those who have practice for sports early in the morning or students who have to stay up late at night doing homework for classes.

Only 17.7 percent of public schools in the United States start at 8:30 a.m. or later, which is the recommended start time of the American Academy of Pediatrics. (AAP) Later school start times would not only be easier on students, teachers and parents, it would have health benefits as well. The Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that students who get eight and a half  to nine and a half hours of sleep a night can improve their health, safety, academic performance and quality of life, yet more than two thirds of U.S. high school students do not get the recommended 8 hours or more of sleep on school nights. The CDC also says that adolescents who do not get enough sleep are more likely to be overweight and engage in unhealthy risk behaviors such as drinking, smoking tobacco and using drugs.

The seemingly easy solution to this problem would seem to be just pushing back high school start times to 8:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. , except there’s a reason WCPSS cannot do that. Due to a limited number of buses, Wake County has to start different schools at different times, high schools starting first at 7:25 a.m. , middle schools starting at 7:45 a.m. and elementary schools starting at 8:45 a.m.

Raleigh Charter High School intentionally starts at 9:00 a.m. because of the positive health benefits of getting enough sleep. According to the Raleigh Charter informational brochure: “Raleigh Charter High School takes into consideration the developmental needs of adolescents in multiple ways. The school day begins at 9 a.m., as research has shown that the adolescent brain is alert and awake by then.” Raleigh Charter is ranked #2 for North Carolina high schools, #37 in high schools nationwide and sent 5 students to Stanford University last year. That being said, the later school start time seems to be working for them.

Given all of this evidence, it is pretty safe to say that most schools do start too early and that early start times can negatively affect learning and general well being of students. While it is very unlikely that WCPSS will change the start times of any schools, there are some techniques that students can practice to combat the early start times of school, such as setting a regular bedtime and wake time and keeping your room dark at night to allow for better quality of sleep. Parents can also set “media curfews,” meaning devices are not to be used after a certain time to allow for some time to “unplug” and get ready to sleep.

Schools should start later in the day for many reasons, but, at least for now, early start times are a problem students will just have to figure out how to work around.