To the average adolescent, sleep is an evasive ideal, a laughable concept. Getting the proper amount of sleep every night becomes more of a far-fetched dream as the years go by and the classes in school get harder. Come senior year, pulling all-nighters isn’t just a sleep-over dare, it’s a desperate attempt to finish the essay, study for the huge test, or design the major project due the next day. The importance of a healthy slumber would easily be outweighed by these assignments–a fact that troubles many parents and school administrators.
Greenwich High School, in particular, found it concerning that students were foregoing sleep for extra time to do schoolwork. After assessing research, such as that of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the GHS administration decided that it would significantly benefit their students to start school later.
William McKersie, superintendent of the Greenwich school district, noted that the policy change was a matter of considerable discussion between the school’s staff and the community. In the end, the administration chose to push the beginning of the school day from 7:30 a.m., the current starting time, to 8:30 a.m., one hour later. This change is still being made official, and will most likely be in place by the start of the 2017-18 school year. McKersie explained that the decision was largely made to allow students to get more sleep. Administrators also expressed interest in the likelihood that students with more sleep do better and participate more in the classroom. So, with regard to all of the benefits of extra sleep, the question remains: should MHS change its start time as well?
At first glance, many students would respond with a resounding yes. More time to sleep could mean getting better grades, feeling more energized and accomplishing more throughout the day; there don’t seem to be any faults to the argument. Perhaps the extra hour could be spent exercising, reading or visiting teachers early in the morning. With more time to complete any of these activities, or just get work done, it appears that shifting school back an hour could increase productivity.
However, everything good must come to an end, or in this case, not end quickly enough. By starting school later, students would have to leave school later. This slight change in the schedule would lead to a myriad of conflicts. After school practices, competitions with other schools and extra-help sessions with teachers would all be compromised.
With the shifted times, Greenwich would have to work around its schedule to allow students to make it on time for away games or other commitments. Often, this would mean that students have to leave school earlier and miss class, an inconvenience most view as too egregious.
Besides conflicts with other schools’ timing, shifting the GHS start time would be a major scheduling issue for the district. Typically, the beginnings of the school day are staggered by school, with high school having the earliest start, followed by the middle school, and then the elementary schools. This is in order to avoid huge traffic jams and save parents the trouble of racing around town in a mad dash to drop off kids at separate schools on time. Pushing back the timing of high school would necessitate the alteration of the rest of the district’s school day. If not, the town would be in disarray.
Looking beyond sports, all after school activities, especially time-consuming ones like PACE, would end even later. PACE practices have been known to last up to 10:00 p.m. With the extension of one hour at the end of the school day, these practices and rehearsals might not even end before the next day, technically speaking. Another consequence of shifting the school schedule would be lack of natural lighting. Sports like football, which generally practice outside, are limited by the amount of sunlight available. The turf field in MHS, fortunately, has been outfitted with numerous floodlights. However, other schools do not have the budget to afford this luxury.
Overall, it appears as if the cons outweigh the pros in pushing school back an hour. Many students feel as though the idea behind the proposition is valid, but the reality would not satisfy the intent of the change. In essence, shifting the timing of the school day wouldn’t do much more than shift the scheduling of the entire day for students: go to bed later, wake up later, start and end school later, finish sports and homework later, etc. If the goal is really to help adolescents sleep more, students find that decreasing the amount of homework is a much better and more feasible solution. In fact, it is the very quantity of homework that keeps students up late at night–changing this would be the most direct way to address the issue.