Starting school later? That’s the dream (or is it?)

By Olivia Sampson, Managing Editor of School and Community Culture

Pictured: Payton student taking a nap during class

In 2021, Payton News Network (PNN) conducted a run-around interview where they asked Payton students the question, “How many hours of sleep do you normally get each night?” The results of this interview were shocking, with students only getting about 6.5 hours of sleep each night. This is well below the CDC’s recommended amount of sleep per night, which stands at around 8-10 hours for high school-aged people. According to the CDC, sleeping for less time than recommended has many negative side effects, ranging from poor academic performance to an increased likelihood of developing mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. The fact that the average Payton student does not meet the recommended amount of time spent sleeping is concerning, and some would say the solution lies in the hands of students, there is a change to the school structure that could potentially resolve this issue: starting school later.

Early school start times have been identified by the CDC as one of the reasons why students do not get enough sleep. Payton students come from all over the city, meaning that while one student may have a commute time of ten minutes, another student may be commuting for over an hour. Students with longer commute times have to wake up much earlier than students who live close to school, so students living closer can potentially get a whole hour of sleep more than students who live farther. The solution to this problem may seem simple for some: if you have to wake up earlier, just go to sleep earlier. However, this is easier said than done, as students have significant time commitments outside of the school day. Many participate in afterschool activities (such as sports, clubs, or jobs), make the commute home (which could take up to an hour), spend hours doing homework, and take care of additional responsibilities they need to do before they can go to sleep. There are also biological reasons why students can’t just “go to sleep earlier.” According to the Sleep Foundation, adolescents become tired later in the night, meaning that sleeping later in the morning is the most natural way to catch up on sleep. This combination of late bedtimes and early school start times leads to unhealthy sleep habits. If the solution doesn’t lie in sleeping earlier, that means the most effective way to go is to start school later. This may seem like a far-fetched idea, but the CDC actually recommends that a start time of 8:30 or later is sufficient. 

Let’s talk about the benefits of this idea first. If Payton were to start at 8:30, we would only be pushing back our school day by 30 minutes. This isn’t that drastic of a change, so students will likely be able to easily adjust. The only real difference is that everything would start 30 minutes later than it normally would, which is a huge benefit to everyone in 2a lunch who would normally need to eat at 9:51 in the morning. Of course, the most important benefit of this idea is that Payton students will get an extra 30 minutes of sleep, which will likely result in improved attendance/decreased tardiness, better performance in school, and less falling asleep in class. After hearing all of these pros, one might think implementing this policy is a great idea. However, the cons prove that this might not be the best solution.

One of the most obvious downsides to this idea is that even though school will start 30 minutes later, it will end 30 minutes later as well. One student says, “It sounds good in theory but, when executed, more harm will be done than good. I have a lot to do after school.” Leaving school at 4:00 is not something that most students would be happy with, even if it means they get an extra 30 minutes of sleep. Aside from the negative views most students have on this dismissal time, there are also negative effects that may cause this solution to do more harm than good: starting school later would impact the schedules of families. Many parents would find it challenging to be at work on time if both the start and the end times were increased. This alteration in dismissal time will also have an effect on students who work as well as students who need to take care of their younger siblings. Not to mention that on top of all of this students still need to do their homework which, if they are getting out 30 minutes later than usual, will eliminate some time that could have been spent completing it. A student from the class of 2024 makes a good point, “As someone who plays a sport, this would not be good for me at all. How would my team be able to play with schools that get out 30 minutes earlier than us? I do wish I could get more sleep though.”

Overall, Payton students seem to be quite opposed to this idea. Although starting school 30 minutes later has its benefits, the cons greatly outweigh the pros. It’s probably best that we keep the idea of starting school later in our dreams. 


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