After years of school start times remaining relatively unchanged, the board of education is currently discussing the age-old question: ‘When should school start?’, and for high schoolers, the answer is 7:43 a.m.
The North Kansas City School District’s transportation department will no longer be able to sustain the current school start and end times due to the addition of two sixth-grade centers that are scheduled to open next year, which necessitates another bus route be squeezed into the morning mix. Using a survey presented to parents, staff and students throughout the district, which garnered over 3,844 responses, as well as personal meetings with a “diverse group of students,” according to the district website, the board of education proposed school start and end times for the 2018-2019 school year at the board meeting on Jan. 23. In the proposal, all high schools start at 7:43 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m.
Although some parents have asked that start and end times remain the same, according to the North Kansas City district website, in order to keep the current schedules an additional 20 buses and drivers would be needed. This would add $1,300,000 per year to the transportation budget. However, the proposed schedule adds just an estimated $284,000 a year. Thus, by altering start times the district is saving upwards of one million dollars per year.
Additionally, according to an experiment conducted by Mary Carskadon of Brown University, teenagers secrete melatonin at later times than younger adolescents, which makes it difficult for teenagers to fall asleep early causing them to wake up later. “The typical adolescent’s natural time to fall asleep may be 11 p.m. or later,” an article by the National Sleep Foundation [NSF] said. Considering that the NSF also recommends that teens should sleep for around nine hours, high schoolers who fall asleep at 11 p.m. should wake up around 8 a.m, implying that high schools should start closer to 8:30 a.m.
However, high school students wear many hats which make it unrealistic to start schools at 8:30 a.m. or later because a seven-hour school day would then end at 3:30 p.m. Getting out of school this late would make it impossible for students to balance extracurriculars, familial responsibilities, jobs and sports with academics and sleep.
Due to this later natural sleep pattern, high school should start after middle school. However, it should still start before elementary school, since many high school age children are responsible for elementary age siblings and need to be able to be home before their younger siblings.
Thus, a start time of 7:43 a.m. is the perfect compromise between what research shows is best for students and the reality that students live in. If high schoolers start school at 7:43 a.m., then they will get out of school at 2:40 p.m. so that school does not intrude on their other activities and responsibilities. Plus, it will allow for students to get much needed sleep.
There does not need to be a significant change in start times to make an impact on students lives. According to a report by Hanover research, even a small delay in start times can affect students positively in academics, attitude and motivation. This means that the 20 minute delay from the current start time of 7:23 a.m. still has the ability to improve students’ performance and personal lives.
The board of education will vote on whether or not to approve the new start and end time schedule at their next board meeting on Feb. 13.