Breanna Kehl-Rousseau

This image shows a student asleep in class. They are unable to get their work done and may be missing a lesson because of lack of sleep at home.

Did you know student’s need 8-10 hours of sleep in order to be productive throughout the day? However, with school starting at 7:30 students would have to go to bed by 10 P.M in order to get the minimum 8 hours needed. Being in bed by this time might be harder for the students that work or have other activities after school. They need time to eat, spend time with their families and do school work.  Students aren’t getting the sleep they need to be successful and the time that school’s start has a big impact on this. School’s need to prioritize student’s sleep more by starting the school day later.

How does sleep affect students?

Getting enough sleep is essential for children’s brain development. Without enough sleep children and teens have trouble with attention, memory, and problem solving. According to a survey of 36 SPASH students, 25 get 6 hours or fewer at night. 7 students get 7 hours and only 4 get the minimum of 8 hours needed. Lack of sleep can also lead to emotional issues, and behavioral issues that may affect learning. According to the Sleep Foundation, 57% of middle school and 72% of highschool students have reported getting less sleep than needed. Lack of sleep can cause decreased attention, impaired memory, slowed processing, reduced creativity, excessive daytime sleepiness, poor decision making, aggression, irritability, depression and anxiety. When SPASH students were asked “Do you feel tired during class?” 16 people responded saying on the days they don’t get enough sleep they feel tired during class. And another 20 responded that they feel tired everyday. They were then asked “Is it hard to get things done when tired?” 21 students responded, “yes it’s hard to get things done” and another 14 said, “sometimes it’s hard to get things done when tired.” These students may be affected physically by not getting enough sleep. This is because lack of sleep can cause problems like headaches, and pain that contribute to feeling sick. This can cause an increase in absenteeism or tardiness in school.  “Teens need as much sleep as a newborn baby, and we need to adjust school schedules to reflect on what’s best for students, not what’s best for buses or sports. Schools that start later have students with less tardies and better grades.” Explained a SPASH student.

Normal days vs Wednesdays

During the week normal school days are different compared to wednesdays. Normal school days start at 7:30 AM and Wednesdays start at 8:24 AM. When taking the student survey 24 SPASH students explained how they don’t feel this is a fair time. While another 10 said they think it is. They were then asked “Do you like school starting at 8:24?” and 23 answered “yes, I wish it was that way everyday”. But another 5 students said that having it once a week is enough. The reason for Wednsdays starting later is to give teachers the time to have meetings and plan for better school days in the mornings. Another difference is, normal school day class periods are 52 mins while Wednesday class periods are only 40 mins. Wednesday’s class periods are shorter in order to start later, and to have advisory and PLT. Advisory is a 20 min class every Wednesday after second hour. This is where students get information provided by the school.The last difference is on Wednesdays there is PLT. It starts at 2:40 pm. This is a time when anyone who needs it has 20 mins with teachers after school to get help or ask questions. Students that don’t need help can either leave at 2:36 or if they ride the bus they wait until 3pm in the commons for buses to come. 

There are reasons for our start time  

According to district sources it’s unlikely that school will start later. During an interview Ms. Negaard, Director of Secondary Instruction, states three main reasons why it’s unlikely. The first reason is transportation. “Bus drivers pick up high school students and drop them off, then they turn around and pick up elementary students and take them to the schools. The same system happens after school.  We don’t have enough buses, or bus drivers, to transport all students to school at the same time” explained Ms. Negaard, Director of Secondary Instruction. If high school students start later, then elementary schools would have to start later as well.  This would cause them to end around 4:30, and for some students, who live further away from their school, they could get them home around 5:30. 

The second reason is the Department of public instruction requirements. Ms. Negaard, Director of Secondary Instruction described, “Schools have to meet standards for instructional hours. Starting the day later and ending at the same time as normal would decrease the number of instructional hours and cause us to end school later in the year.” This can cause problems with students who work during the summer and be the cause of longer summer school programs. 

The last reason is food service. Ms. Negaard, Director of Secondary Instruction, communicated that, “Many student’s first meals of the day are served at school. The school breakfast is extremely important for student learning. Starting later would delay some student’s nutritional needs.” 

When asked “what would it take for our school to start later?” Ms. Negaard responded with “It would take the School Board action to change the instructional day.  I think that many students would like to start later, and I completely understand that.  However, the variables I mentioned would need to be worked out carefully.”

Time for a change

Sleep is a very important aspect in being successful in and out of school. When asked about this in a student survey, 23 SPASH students stated they are more productive and successful when they get enough sleep. With that being said students and schools should prioritize sleep more. There would be obstacles to get around if our school wanted to start later. SPASH would just have to be willing to try to get around them. This would increase the amount of sleep students get and give them a better chance at success throughout the day. Many students state they want school to start later but don’t do anything about it. Maybe more students would do something about it if they were more informed on how sleep affects our bodies and brains. Things can’t change unless we take action and talk about things that need to change.