SBPS district should consider later start time, benefit students

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Drooping eyes, trails of drool, vacant expressions…

This isn’t a scene from the Walking Dead. Rather, it’s the first period classes at SHS.

The onslaught of sleep-deprived students seems like an inevitability. But, is it? What if there was a way to address not only student’s lowering eyelids, but also their lowering test scores and behavioral performances?

One solution that has never been explored by the Scotts Bluff Public School district is switching to a later start.

It is clear to see why the administration has never made the switch. Recalibrating the morning schedules of all SHS, BMS, or elementary school students and their families would undoubtedly be difficult, especially for parents whose work schedules would conflict with a later start time.

However, the benefits of moving the district start time to after 7:45 are significant enough to merit at the very least an exploration.

A later start would have three major impacts. First, it would reduce tardiness, truancy, and dropout rates.

Additionally, starting later would enhance student focus all day long, leading to improved moods and boosted academic and extracurricular performance. According to … students need at least 8 ½ to 9 hours of sleep each night. The average teen in the nation reports getting 7.

It seems likely that the district’s early start time is directly influencing sleep times of its students, as our start time is at least 15 to 45 minutes before the average American high school’s.

Finally, late starts would make students healthier by allowing them the time to eat a healthier breakfast, improving the health of the district and leading to a decrease in the number of sick days, as students have a better developed immune system.

This would also benefit the athletic programs, because, as seen on pages 6 and 7, eating breakfast and and otherwise well-rounded diet.

While sports and other out-of-class activities might struggle to find new practice times. But a later school day, say 9:00 to 4:30, would simply require student activities to shift later in the day as the start time does. This would not be a major inconvenience, while before school activities and zero hour classes would be able to get a later start as well. Imagine students arriving for drill team AFTER the sun has already risen!

Scheduling issues would have to be addressed on a case by case basis, but a universal argument against a later start is that students would just become accustomed to this later start and continue to exhibit tardiness.

While this concern is warranted (after all, students are notorious for sleeping until noon during Christmas break) this belief is based on a misunderstanding of how teenager’s sleep cycles work.

The homeostatic drive for sleep in teens is weakened during adolescents, meaning that high school students feel tired later at night instead of earlier, as many adults do. Their circadian rhythms also shift, meaning that teenage bodies naturally signal a late night bedtime.

The idea that students should simply go to sleep sooner forces them to work against their own hormonal patterns.

Adjusting to a later start allows students to stop fighting their natural sleep patterns, helping them get the rest needed to be more successful.

It is clear that something needs to change.

A later start to the district school day offers a myriad of benefits. By adjusting the start time for classes, the school district would be helping students get to class on time, improving attitudes and focus all day long, building stronger athletes, raising test scores, and letting teenagers follow their body’s natural sleep cycle.

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