Pro/Con: Later School Start Times

Kipp and Caitlin discuss the benefits and drawbacks of a high school schedule beginning later in the day
Pro/Con: Later School Start Times

As a career student, there have been many instances where I’ve been forced to question the value of seemingly asinine academic tasks. In order to coerce headstrong scholars such as myself into doing things they see no merit in doing, teachers will frequently use the excuse, “You’ll need to be able to do this in the future.” However, this rarely proves to be true. 

Take Cornell notes, for example. I have never once used Cornell notes during my entire high school career, despite practicing them in every single social studies class throughout middle school. Similarly, rationalizing your denominators was regarded as an imperative step in earlier math classes (it’s literally just getting the same answer in a different form), but it hasn’t come up once in BC Calculus. Like the million and one other things I could mention right now, the same goes for waking up early.

The argument that early school start times benefit adolescents who will one day enter the workforce does not track. While the norm for day jobs in the United States is to begin at 9 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average public high school start time in Missouri is 7:53 a.m. That is a 77-minute disparity between when students are expected to be at school, versus when they will be expected to be at their jobs. 

At schools like Clayton, where high academic rigor is an unspoken expectation, the majority of students arrive at school another 23 minutes before the state average start time at least once a week to attend club meetings, zero-hour classes and teacher office hours. Citing myself as an example, there are some weeks when I am expected to be at school at 7:30 a.m. on at least three different days for extracurricular obligations, including the required, bi-weekly Globe editors’ meetings.

The fact that society expects teenagers to routinely wake up over an hour earlier than their parents violates human biology. For the past few years, Clayton High School’s Health and Physical Education Department Chair Sarah Gietschier-Hartman has taught a sophomore health unit centered around sleep. 

“The big thing that sets teenagers apart from other age groups isn’t necessarily the amount of sleep that they need, but the time at which their bodies are physically ready to go to sleep,” Gietschier-Hartman said. “Teenagers are wired to go to sleep late and wake up late because it is the biological way in which our bodies teach us how to be independent.” 

To understand why this phenomenon occurs, scientists have proposed the sentinel hypothesis. An article published in the National Library of Medicine explains that animals who travel in groups possess biological sleep mechanisms to ensure that at any given time, there will always be members of the group who are awake to protect those who are sleeping. This way, traveling in family groups composed of a variety of ages provides a form of protection against the dangers of stagnancy. The sentinel hypothesis essentially posits that natural human sleep schedules in modern populations reflect a long, prehistoric legacy of natural selection.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, 73% of high school students do not get enough sleep. While this startling figure may not be entirely attributable to school work and school schedules, I have difficulty believing that later school start times would worsen the student sleep crisis. Furthermore, by the time my peers and I reach adulthood and have jobs, not only will the majority of said jobs begin over an hour later than school does now, but our bodies will be better suited to wake up at those earlier hours. 

As a result of unnatural sleeping habits, Johns Hopkins Medical School contends that sleep-deprived students face a 33% increase in dementia risk; a 48% increase in heart disease risk; nearly three times the risk of developing type two diabetes; and an increased risk of depression, anxiety, poor judgment, and memory loss. 

While my goal isn’t to drown you in statistics, it is imperative to dispel the notion that sleep deprivation is simply a matter of being temporarily tired or irritable. I don’t know about you, but I find it ironic how the place where I’m supposed to be learning how to think might be catalyzing my future dementia. 

Fundamentally, these are the reasons why saying, “You’ll need to be able to wake up early when you get a job” as an excuse for violating the biological sleep cycles of children bothers me so much. Aside from the argument’s fundamental flaws, why should we jeopardize the development of society’s most fragile and critical members to make the lives of fully matured adults more convenient?  


Humans are creatures of habit. We cling to familiarity, and introducing change, like later school start times, could disrupt the balance of daily lives set over decades.

Even though the school has no plans to adopt a later start time, understanding the potential ripple effect of such a change is important for future considerations. It’s not about adjusting to a new alarm clock setting; it’s considering how a shift could impact after-school programs, local businesses, and the complex scheduling of family life. 

By examining every facet of our community’s routine—from the morning rush to evening activities—it is clear that it would be best to keep the current schedules.

Keeping the same school start time ensures that schedules stay the same. Families often base their schedules around school calendars. Parents go to work based on these times. Daycare Centers, sports practices and even restaurants plan their hours to fit around the school schedule. If the school times change, all these routines will change, too. This could upset the balance of daily life and make it harder for kids in school to participate in their communities.

Many communities rely on schools, especially high school students, who place value on their before and after school commitments. When schools end earlier, this allows more time for sports, especially where teams travel away for games. More after-school time also allows for students to have an after-school job, volunteer for a community organization or help care for younger siblings. Pushing school start time back would diminish student’s time for these activities, lessening their impact on their communities and families. 

According to a study conducted by the Greenwich School District, changing to a later school start time would increase the number of busses needed by most school districts, drastically increasing their operating costs by 2.5-2.9%. While this would not be a worry for many districts where the primary mode of transportation to school is not busses, these districts with a majority of students not relying on busses would be in the minority. 

The time before and after school is also the only time kids tend to be outside, adding additional value. During the winter, people get less Vitamin D and can be prone to seasonal depression. But being outside when it’s light out can help. The current school times allow students to see the sun before and after school, aiding their mood. This is also unsafe for the many kids who walk home, as they could be more challenging to spot. 

According to the Sleep Foundation, 64% of parents worry about their children’s safety in the dark, either on the way to or from school. For these parents, keeping school start times the same would allow their students to safely walk to and from school. 

A later school start time seems like it would help out parents who just don’t have the time in the mornings, but this would be the opposite. Even if schools were to start later, some kids might still arrive at the same time due to their parents’ inflexible work schedules. This would burden parents to arrange childcare or nullify the intended benefit of more sleep if kids have to wake up early anyway. A later start could create more problems for parents than it would appear to solve.

The main argument for pushing back school start times is increased sleep for students, especially teenagers. But as a student, it is more realistic that this would become extra time for students to procrastinate on work instead of sleeping. 

However, besides lack of sleep, many other factors could lead to poor student performance in school, such as outside pressures or lack of nutrition. Working on smaller, more manageable factors could help students enjoy their time at school better and perform at higher levels instead of a wholesale change that may not have the desired effect. 

For example, ensuring all students have access to adequate nutrition during and after school would allow them to focus better on their studies. Creating a safe space for students where they can process outside pressures and reduce them during class time. According to the American Psychological Association, these are more proven ways to improve student performance. 

Pushing back the school start time is a blanket solution to many other problems in the education system. The intended positive effects may never outweigh the actual adverse effects.

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About the Contributors
Kipp Vitsky
Kipp Vitsky, Editor-in-Chief
Kipp Vitsky is a senior. During his sophomore year, he made the impulsive decision to join his school’s introductory school newspaper class. He had no prior journalistic experience, nor any intention of ever becoming an editor, let alone Editor-in-chief. By taking that risk two years ago, not only did he discover an extremely tight-knit community within CHS, but he has come to deeply cherish writing stories that make a difference in his community. This year, he is proud to be leading such a passionate group of students and he looks forward to seeing more stories that make him proud. Outside of the Globe, Kipp is a tutor at the International Institute, an Executive Officer of Clayton’s All-in Coalition, the Senior Class President, and a professional host and box-folder at Dewey’s Pizza.  
Caitlin Kuhlmann
Caitlin Kuhlmann, Reporter
Caitlin Kuhlmann is a senior at Clayton High School. She joined The Globe sophomore year, and has enjoyed learning more about herself and her community. Outside of school, she enjoys playing with her dog, being outdoors, swimming, and spending time with her friends.
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