School Desides to Keep Start Time Early, Despite ResearchWednesday, May 30, 2012 By Elizabeth Hall
Sleeping in may be the best way for your teenager to excel in school. Some experts have convinced schools to shift their schedules to a later start time to accommodate the teenage brain. Waukesha County schools all start at different times. Waukesha School District schools start at 7:30am, Pius starts at 8am, and Kettle Moraine starts at 7:30am. Currently, Arrowhead Union High School, in Hartland, Wisconsin, starts at 7:20am for freshmen and sophomores and 7:30am for juniors and seniors. But will Arrowhead ever make that change to a later start time? What do Arrowhead students, teachers, and administrators think of this? Would starting school later positively impact student performance? “The problem is the elementary schools,” states Arrowhead High School’s vice-principal Nejedlo. “Someone [meaning either the high schools or elementary schools] is going to have to either go early or go late.” “It all really has to do with bus companies as well; they’re the ones who are driving all the kids home. Whatever schedule works best for them is what the schools are willing to set up the time for the school to be at,” he says. But should school start times be determined by the bus companies? Shouldn’t schools start and end based on what is best for all the students (especially the high school students, studying for AP and ACT tests, and applying for college)? “The main problem has to do with the bus companies,” says Arrowhead principal Mr. Wieczorek. “They’re the ones who are serving us and making a time schedule that is easiest on them. Asking them to change their routes and time frames is too much for the size of our high school and the elementary schools. They have to make three runs as it is. (They make) one shift at 6:30am, another around 7:30am, and for Merton Schools at 8:30am. Changing our time means changing some of the elementary schools time; and to sit down with those schools is too much figuration.” Vice-principal, Pete Nejedlo agrees: “This situation has been discussed once or twice in the past and we haven’t really gotten anywhere with this—but I can tell you Gregg Wieczorek has given it much more thought this year than in the past.” “Having school start later in the day has been brought up to the board’s attention,” says Weiczorek. “We have certainty talked about it. This would actually be a big change because having school start later changes several of things. We have to look at it in a whole or in a big picture I should say.” Students’ polled had split opinions. Some were concerned about sports practices and games being pushed back. Wieczorek says, “Sports are something that would lead to a problem. Football practices would have to start right after school, which would have to be around four and go until six. Part of the season would be affected by natural light. For golf, you would have to miss a lot of school during the day… I mean they play nine holes and that’s very time consuming. There would just be a lot of conflicts with outdoor practices.” Other students said they would rather start earlier and end earlier. Brittany Wienicke, a junior at Arrowhead, says she’d like the times to stay the same because “you can do more activities later in the day than in the morning.” She isn’t the only one with that opinion. Abigail Schmidt, Payton Salick, and Lauren Comella, all juniors at Arrowhead, agreed. “I would prefer the 8:30am to 3:30pm because one, I get more sleep; two, I get to stay up later at night for either homework or fun; and three, I have time for myself in the mornings,” says Angelica Salceda, a junior. According to an article written by Jennifer Dooren, starting school just 30 minutes later was linked with significant improvements in adolescents' reported sleep times, mood and health. The study involved students at a private boarding school in Rhode Island that was weighing whether to start school a half hour later—at 8:30 a.m. About 200 students agreed to participate in the study and completed a sleep habits' survey before and after the shift in the school-start time. The survey included questions about mood and depression. Researchers also collected data from the school's health center, cafeteria and attendance records, which showed whether students reported late to or missed class. At the end of the study, the average sleep-duration on school nights increased by 45 minutes to nearly eight hours. The number of students who reported getting at least eight hours of sleep increased to 54.7% from 16.4%. At the same time, reported “daytime sleepiness” fell to 20% from 49.1%. There were also changes in mood with the percentage of students who rated themselves as depressed or “at least somewhat unhappy” falling to 45% from 66% before the later start time, while the percentage of students who reported feeling annoyed or irritated throughout the day fell to 63% from 84%. The number of students who either missed or were late to their first class because they overslept fell to 44 events from 80 events, comparing a time period before and after the start-time change. Data collected from the cafeteria also showed an increase in the number of students who ate hot breakfast foods, suggesting more students were awake in time to get breakfast. While some high schools have shifted to later start times over the past decade, the vast majority still begin the school day by 8 a.m. or earlier. And Arrowhead follows suit. “I would also like school to start at 8:30am because I can get to sleep in. And, to tell you the truth, I would be more attentive in class,” says Maggie Ross, a junior at Arrowhead. Wieczorek says “We are trying to look at this as a whole. We are trying to do the best thing for all students,” Wieczorek says.