Starting school later will not be a magical solution to teenagers’ problems. Yes, research shows that teenagers need more sleep and starting school as early as we currently do is damaging. But, what about the effects that changing start times will have on other aspects of teenage life? The problems presented would apply if either high school and elementary school start times flipped, or if all schools just started later.
First, the benefit of having high school end before elementary school is that older siblings can be home to watch and care for their younger siblings. If start times flipped, that would no longer be possible and parents would either have to pay for some form of childcare, or change their work schedules to watch the younger kids. Additionally, it is proven that younger children need more sleep than their older siblings, so by making them start 2.5 hours earlier, they will need to go to bed that much earlier and that will change the entire family’s schedule, especially for the families that have parents who work until 5 or 6 p.m..
Another issue with flipping start times would be that younger siblings require help from parents to get ready for school while older children are more independent and can get themselves ready. So if this flip were to happen, parents would have to wake up earlier to get their younger children ready for school. This being said, the argument cannot be made that the older kids can get their younger siblings ready for school because these students would then be waking up at the same time they did before. Taking all these points into consideration, flipping the two schools’ start times will not solve any problems.
Next, let’s say we push back high school start times an hour, to 8:30 a.m. for Cherry Hill East students. Traffic will be worse as many adults begin their commute to work at that time. Also, that hour push back will then create a domino effect, making both middle and elementary schools start an hour later as well. That would mean, middle schoolers would start at 9 a.m., and elementary schoolers would start at 10 a.m.. Most parents have to start work at 9 a.m., so we have another issue with getting students to school. Not just that, but school will need to be the same length; for high schoolers, that is 7 hours. So now, though we start at 8:30 a.m., we finish at 3:30 P.M. Now, our whole routine is just pushed back an hour and you will end up getting the same amount of sleep each night. Not to mention, most after school activities and sports hold 2 hour long practices, and after daylight savings time in the fall, it will be dark by 5:45 when practice ends. Therefore, it will be hard to see and practices will face issues.
I agree that teenagers need more rest, but changing school start times will not help that. I think we should instead focus on the amount of homework given each night in high school. Students stay up until 2 a.m. or later just working on nightly homework. If we could place a cap on the number of hours worth of homework students could get, we could help fight sleep deprivation among teens.