Opinion: Yes to Start Times

Caterina Tomassini

Ah, the beauty of the early morning: the sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you’re about to miss your 6:45 bus ride to school because you didn’t go to bed until midnight. As a result, you woke up late. And don’t forget about your first-period math test.

Wayland Public Schools has been looking into the impact of the early high school start times, and many in the Wayland community have agreed that pushing the start times back would improve not only the health of students, but also their academic performance.

As of right now, the first bell rings at a brutal 7:30 in the morning, a time when students’ brains are not fully ready to learn. As we get older, the workload becomes more demanding and extra-curricular activities become more involved. We go to bed later, school starts earlier and we lose sleep.

According to Nationwide Children’s, teens should be getting nine and a half hours of sleep per night, but the average teen is sleeping only seven hours. Most of us go to bed at around 11 p.m., and if we were getting the proper amount of sleep, we wouldn’t be waking up until 8:30 a.m. — a whole hour after the first period begins.

Recently, Wayland Public Schools Superintendent Arthur Unobskey announced his plan for the pushing back of school start times; the goal for the high school start time for the 2019-2020 school year is 8 a.m., 30 minutes later than right now. This may not fix all of our workload problems, but by delaying the school start time until 8, our brains will function a bit better at the start of school.

Teens’ brains are not fully awake and engaged until between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., so how well can we really perform academically at 7:30 in the morning? By delaying the start time by just 30 minutes, we will be more capable of learning at the beginning of the school day.

Even though the suggested start time in only 30 minutes later, we would all appreciate the extra sleep. And don’t forget about the METCO students; their commute to school is far longer than anyone who lives in Wayland. Lots of the students in the METCO program wake up as early as 5 a.m. in order to get to school, and waking up 30 minutes later could make a difference, especially if the sun has risen by the time they get on the bus.

“As a METCO student going from Boston to Wayland, it takes 45 minutes [to get to school in the morning], and I wake up before the sun rises; for me, that’s a problem,” freshman METCO student Kayla Simpson said. “[Waking up half an hour later] would feel way better.”

Starting school early in the morning is very difficult as is, so for us non-morning people, it’s a struggle to solve algebra equations at a time when we should be sleeping. Being sleep-deprived negatively affects teens, for it can make us more prone to being irritable and cranky. On top of that, sleep deprivation can compromise our decision-making process and our alertness.

This is especially important for those who drive themselves to school in the morning. Lack of sleep can cause microsleeps: brief sleep episodes that last up to 30 seconds, during which a person temporarily loses consciousness. 30 seconds of being unconscious are enough to result in a dangerous car accident.

Pushing the school start time is a great idea, and it will be beneficial to every student at Wayland High School. And good luck on that math test.

Opinion articles written by staff members represent their personal views. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent WSPN as a publication.