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Late Starts: Helpful or Hurtful?

Julia Barshak and Kristen Nash

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Argument for Late Starts

High school students are currently sleep deprived; one cannot walk down the hallway without hearing students complain, “I’m so tired,” or, “I was up so late last night.”  Late starts were introduced this year as a potential solution to this widespread fatigue. Rather than the normal 7:40 start time, the last bell rings at 9:40, allowing students to sleep for a much-needed additional two hours.  

Teenagers need at least nine and a half hours of sleep, according to The National Sleep Foundation, which also reports that approximately 58% of teenagers, ages 15-17, get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night.  The additional two hours of sleep provided by the late starts brings the average student almost up to the recommended amount of sleep, though the number still falls slightly short of the recommended time. While it is evident that late starts do not completely fix student’s lack of sleep, it is clear that they are a necessary first step.  People need enough sleep to be healthy, happy, and able to learn.  If someone is sleep-deprived, the student won’t be able to meet his or her full potential to learn.

If Nashoba really wants to allow its students to get more sleep and thus learn more efficiently, school should always start later. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “High schools and middle schools should begin the day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to help teenagers get more sleep.” During a week without late starts, the amount of sleep students lose adds up to around four hours a week. That’s equivalent to losing a full two nights of sleep every month.

According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, high schools in Massachusetts are required to have 990 hours of school time and be open 180 days. If all the days were an even length, school days only need to be five and a half hours long. This would technically enable Nashoba to start school an hour and ten minutes later and still fit the requirements set by the Department.  Everyone agrees that students need more sleep; late starts are the first step to achieve that goal.

Argument Against Late Starts

As a school year begins, something new is always introduced. This year, “late starts” are the current fixation. 

While it’s a known fact that sleeping is well-loved, the idea of going to school two hours later is problematic. Problems range from throwing off students’ sleep schedules to their missing important classes, and the school’s schedule itself becoming confusing and random.

Students thrive on an organized routine. If this routine is not maintained, chaos will follow. Many students are used to waking up to a specific time by an alarm, and when this pattern is disturbed the body is disoriented. As funny as it sounds, it is possible to oversleep. Sleeping more than one is accustomed to can actually cause fatigue. The reason for this is that people sleep in cycles; if one oversleeps then he or she will enter one-too-many cycles and then potentially wake up in the middle of one, causing him or her to be tired and sore.

Since the day is reduced by two hours, classes are being missed. Nashoba eliminates two classes on late starts, causing a great deal of stress for students and teachers because nobody can get their work done. This is even worse for students who are enrolled in Advanced Placement classes because their AP test date schedule is not altered, no matter how much class time they miss.

Although the schedule is always listed on the Nashoba website, late start schedules tend to be changed in the days before, and students often struggle to stay updated. This causes  much confusion and stress for students because they don’t know what period is first, or what time it begins. Since Nashoba runs on a rotating schedule, students are never sure if they have a certain class or not. Yet again, late starts are creating stressful and chaotic situations. While there are some benefits of late starts, the cons currently outweigh the pros, and the future of late starts is uncertain. 

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Late Starts: Helpful or Hurtful?