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East’s Start Times

Photo: ed100.org


Forms response chart. Question title: When do you believe the East school day should start?. Number of responses: 137 responses.

It seems that everyone has heard the phrase, “the early bird gets the worm”. We’ve been told by teachers and parents alike that it’s important to go to bed and wake up early. However, people worldwide are starting to realize this may be outdated information. In the USA, 93% of high schools start before 8:30, and students are feeling the effects. Williamsville East starts at 7:45, putting it within the 93%. Should East be making a change to accomodate to student needs? Perhaps students are just overreacting and don’t see the benefits of an early start. 

137 East students participated in a Google Form in order to hear what they have to say. 17.5 % of students would like to school to start just a few minutes later. 42% of participants said they would prefer school starting between 8:00 and 9:00, and 21% go as far as to want a start time later than 9:00. At the same time, nearly 17.5% of students believe East’s start time is fine the way it is. Five participants even claim they would prefer an earlier start. 

Why Should We Start Later?

East students have spoken, and four out of five of them wish school started later. “I can’t focus at 7:45 in the morning, and I fall asleep during the day,” says an East freshman. “I’ve missed out on learning opportunities due to the fact that I can’t concentrate in class,” argues a senior. A sophomore said, “I have trouble with homework, but I can’t go in early for help because I would have to get up at an even more ridiculous time”. A junior shares, “I don’t get too much sleep. My bus comes at 6:40 and it’s a ten minute walk to the stop”. Another senior says, “It’s dark and dangerous for students who walk”.             

Many East students would be in favor of a later start, but what do professionals have to say? The American Academy of Pediatrics says that middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 to give students a chance to get the sleep they need. As students begin to hit puberty, circadian rhythms can shift up to two hours later and release of melatonin is delayed. It’s more difficult for teenagers to get up and fall asleep at early times. East students must go against their bodies in order to accomodate to East’s early start.

Students are meant to get 8-9 hours of sleep each night, however this is a reach for many students. An East freshman shares, “I sleep for about four hours on a good night.” Sleep deprivation makes focus in school more difficult, hindering performance on tests and other school work. It can also affect attendance, as many students over sleep easily. It has been found in a 2012 Los Angeles study that student-athletes that get less than 8 hours of sleep are more likely to get injured while playing. Not to mention the many ways sleep deprivation impacts health by increasing the likelihood of obesity, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and so much more. A senior states, “My lack of sleep from excessive school work has lead to low self esteem and depression-like symptoms” Sleep deprivation isn’t just harmful; it’s deadly.

Should We Keep Our Early Start?

Could we look past all these negatives of early start and find the positives? One of the biggest benefits is that early start allows for earlier release. This allows time later in the day for students to participate in sports, volunteer work, jobs, clubs, hanging out with friends, studying, and personal hobbies. It is especially beneficial to athletes that play outdoor sports and need sunlight. As winter approaches, Williamsville can be submerged in darkness as early as 4:45 in the evening. Starting these activities earlier may allow students to go home earlier and get a decent amount of sleep. As a sophomore stated, “An earlier start time allows us to have more time after school for sports, homework, and studying without cramming. It makes it easier for time management.”

Other arguments for an earlier start time include parents claiming it teaches responsibility. Many jobs and careers start even earlier than school, so they believe students should learn to wake themselves up earlier so it’ll come naturally as an adult. Parents also appreciate earlier start times as they tend to work better with their work schedules. When parents go to work early and students go to school later, they won’t be home to wake up their child if they sleep through their alarm or need a ride to school.

School districts, such as Williamsville, prefer giving high schools an earlier start to save money on buses. A sophomore seemed to be very aware of this fact, as they said, “The only real reason schools start so early is because of the horrible bus schedules”. After school buses finish their high school commute, many of them continue to take elementary and middle school students to school later. This staggering of bus schedules saves money that Williamsville would otherwise have to spend on extra buses, and it’s most likely the primary reason for East’s 7:45 start. 

Zero Period

More recently, some schools have begun to offer zero period. Zero period is an optional period of the day that begins before the normal school day. At these schools, many students decide they would prefer to take an earlier class so they can get out of school earlier as a result. The classes offered during zero period are usually electives or advanced courses. Students at these schools may decide to take a zero period class for a variety of reasons. They may be natural early birds, and it fits into their schedule easier. Some may just want extra time in the afternoon. Some just want to fit an extra class into their loaded schedules. 

Zero periods have mixed opinions. Some view this opportunity for an earlier class as a negative. It is believed by those against zero period that it will encourage students to wake up even earlier than they already have to, increasing the effects of sleep deprivation in teenagers. Others suggest that if students want an extra period, it should be in the afternoon instead of the morning. Those in favor of zero periods argue that it teaches students more about responsibility by giving more freedom within their schedules, along with the benefits listed above. 

Maybe East could consider turning 7:45 into the start of a zero period instead of first period, and have the normal school day run from 8:30 to 3:30. This optional course would allow East’s diverse students to choose if they want to come to school later or earlier. However, there are problems with this idea. The main problem is that the new school day would conflict with the middle and elementary school days, so the district would have to pay for more buses and bus drivers. An alternate idea could be to have a zero period start at 7:00, and keep the normal school hours. Zero period could benefit many students at East. A large amount of students don’t have a free period, as they want to take two science classes at once or extra electives. A zero period could give these students a reliable free period and could encourage students to take more classes, even if it’s just a relaxed, yet informative, elective. 

Come To Your Own Conclusion

The purpose of this article is not to persuade the reader to join either side. It is meant to get students to think more about the effects of something as simple as school start time. While the Google Form brought in plenty of extreme answers, it also allowed students to give their own conclusions. A freshman suggested, “We should have scheduled time in the morning to get ourselves set and ready for the day.” A sophomore brings up, “At Nardin, they do something called Late Start Wednesday. Maybe we could start late once a week.” Another sophomore claims, “If we shortened the periods by only five minutes, we could begin school 45 minutes later.”

Williamsville East most likely won’t change start time just because of an article, but it is important to be aware of the effects it may have, good and bad, and the possible changes that could be made to fix any flaws. East has a very large student population with diverse needs, and accommodating can be very difficult, but it is possible and should be done. It would show students that WCSD is willing to listen to the needs of students and that they truly care about the well-being of student education and health.

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