Start Classes Later

Editor, News-Register:

Our Board of Education recently had a “workday” to discuss having an earlier start time for high school. The news article, however, seemed to indicate changing the time from 7:25 to 7:55. I’m less interested in the suggestions than in what “research” is being done. From the reporting, it appears that none of it had to do with what was good for the students’ well-being.

There is already an existing body of national, professional research that shows that adolescents need more, not less, sleep to perform well in school. Studies show that most teens need 9 ¼ hours of sleep per night. Medical research studies also show that post-pubescent teens experience a biological shift that makes the time they naturally fall asleep about 11 p.m., two hours later than it had been. That would mean that to get enough sleep, they should not awaken before 8:15 a.m. the next morning.

Forcing our teenagers to arise early enough to shower, dress, have a good breakfast, get to a bus stop, ride to school, disembark, and get to their first period classroom by 7:25 deprives all of them of sleep they need for optimum physical and mental health. But our current educational administration and board seems to think it might be a good idea to start school 30 minutes — or maybe even 45 minutes — later. The workday discussion questioned whether the time change was “worth it.” Worth it for whom or what?

It certainly wouldn’t be worth it for the students. Research shows the following effects of sleep deprivation on adolescents:

n Moodiness, irritability, crankiness, difficulty regulating mood exhibited as frustration and getting upset easily.

n Harmful behavioral changes manifested in risk-taking, drinking, fast driving, drug use, unprotected sex, etc.

n Negative changes in cognitive ability manifested in problems with attention and memory, poor decision-making, slower reaction time, and reduced creativity.

n Worse academic performance manifested in such things as falling asleep in class, tardiness or absences, and poorer grades.

n Drowsy driving and falling asleep at the wheel which tends to occur most often in the middle of the night and again at 3-4 p.m., when those who drove to school would be driving home.

I don’t know what the participants in the BOE workday used as criteria for deciding whether the time change would be “worth it,” but there is abundant evidence that students would be best served by a time change in the direction of later rather than earlier start times. I do not have a child in high school, but I would urge parents who do or who will have adolescents in high school to demand that the Ohio County Board of Education make what’s best for the students the top priority for its decisions.

Grace Norton



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