Opinion The Counter Opinion: Should school districts consider later start times? By The New Political Posted on 2 weeks ago 12 min read 0 0 22 Graphic by Maggie Prosser California now has a new law that prohibits high schools from starting school earlier than 8:30 a.m., and Ohio legislators are trying to jump on the bandwagon. In central Ohio, 18% of districts already start classes at 8:30 a.m. or later. However, the school districts that have early start times aren’t planning on changing it, and some families are against the change. We asked our opinion writers what they think about later start times and if they think the potential effects on school districts are worth it. Contributing are Zach Richards, a sophomore studying education, Luke Beccasio, a freshman studying communication and Charlotte Caldwell, a sophomore studying journalism. Should school districts consider later start times? Luke: The question of whether or not school districts should start at a later time is a question for each individual school district to determine on its own. There are many implications that can arise from this sudden change, which can affect certain districts differently — from what time school buses are able to pick up students, to some parents stressing, figuring out how to rearrange their work schedules. While California Gov. Gavin Newsom gave the green light for all school districts in California to start at 8:30 a.m. or later, his predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, objected to making this concept mandatory for all California school districts for this very reason. Ironically, even Newsom’s law holds a few exceptions for certain school districts. Zach: This is a question for individual school districts to decide. But saying this as someone who had to wake up at 6 a.m. for eight years, who wants to be a teacher someday and who prefers to wake up at noon, schools should stick with early start times. Charlotte: Later start times should be taken into consideration for all school districts, but a comprehensive plan should be thought out that would work for the majority of school districts before being implemented statewide. Having this plan in place for only middle and high schoolers would require some school districts to increase busing — specifically the ones that use their buses for all grade levels of school, called “tiered busing.” Many school districts would be unable to afford the increase in their current budgets, so unless a levy was passed or they received more state funding for the cost of more buses, then later start times would not work. Do you think early start times are a “public health issue”? Luke: The belief that early start times should be considered a “public health issue” is a stretch. The reason given for why it should be labeled as such is because of prevalent sleep deprivation among Americans, which can lead to a variety of issues in day-to-day life. However, many are pointing to early school times as the primary reason for this, when it seems doubtful that there are no other major issues that lead to this. Zach: It really isn’t that much of a public health issue. It’s up to students to make sure they get enough sleep for schools. There are some studies to suggest that teenagers have a natural inclination to go to bed and wake up later, but at the same time, it’s perfectly possible to establish a sleep schedule based around earlier bedtimes. Charlotte: The overall concern shouldn’t be about early start times being a “public health issue,” but the ability of students to learn at such an early start time. Many kids are still not going to go to sleep at the appropriate time in order to get eight to nine hours of sleep because of distractions like homework and/or electronics. Therefore, the public health issue of sleep-deprived students would still be prevalent no matter what the school’s start time. A later start time, however, could give a student more time to get ready for the day and come to school prepared to retain information. They may not have to jump out of bed and leave for school 15 minutes later if their start time was 8:30 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m., for example. If school districts want improved performance in their students, especially in early morning classes, then they should consider the shift. What are the effects of later start times? Are the effects worth it? Zach: The biggest concern is that later start times will eat into the rest of the day. If school is ending at 4:30 p.m. instead of 2:30 p.m., that can make it more difficult for high schoolers to hold a job during the school year, especially if they have extracurriculars. Suddenly, anyone with a two-hour extracurricular isn’t getting off at 4:30 p.m.; they’re getting off at 6:30 p.m. During the winter and fall months, that gives them an hour or less of daylight by the time they get home. Because of this, it really isn’t going to be worth it for a lot of students to have a later start time. For many students, all it will do is push forward their schedule by an hour or two and they’ll be getting the same amount of sleep they’d be getting anyway. Luke: There are a number of effects of having a later starting time. One serious effect would be parents and teachers having to rearrange their work schedules around a new schedule. Schools would also have to make some major changes in converting to the new time frame imposed on them, such as having to pay more money for buses to arrive on a different schedule. Installing a new start time for school districts across the state is likely to result in a plethora of unintended consequences. Charlotte: The major effect would be the cost of busing and trying to find bus drivers to drive the extra buses. With a purchase price of about $90,000 and a yearly maintenance cost of around $50,000, adding new buses to school districts could be too much to handle for their current budgets. There is also a nationwide shortage of bus drivers, so even if school districts could afford new buses, they may not find anyone to drive them. If the school district could find the funding and the resources, then the effects would be worth it. However, many urban or poor suburban school districts with limited access to funding and resources would suffer under the current proposed state plan, so lawmakers need to create a more sustainable option. Please note that these views and opinions do not represent those of The New Political.