The Great Debate: Is the new school start time better?
November 4, 2021
No, the new start time delays our days and our lives
While many things remain the same in the 2021-2022 school year, one major aspect has changed; the start time. But even though this change seems to improve students’ mornings, I certainly haven’t enjoyed it, as it delays everything.
For many years, the first bell would ring at 7:15 a.m. and the final at 1:50 p.m. However, after debate from community members and administrators, the announcement was made in spring 2021 to delay the start time by 40 minutes. Now, the first bell rings at 7:55 a.m. and the final at 2:30 p.m. Now, I can’t disagree with the many studies that show a late start benefits mental health and sleep schedules, but I haven’t seen improvement in either of these areas.
Don’t get me wrong, I certainly never enjoyed having to wake up at 6:20 a.m. and start learning just after 7:20, but I loved being done with school for the day at 1:50 p.m. When school ended so early, I could get additional homework done and still have time for breaks. Now, I find that the 40-minute delay in my day causes me to start homework much later and not have as much time to take a break from academics, therefore only making my mental health worse.
In terms of my sleep schedule, I am still going to bed at around 10:30 p.m. every night (same as 2020-2021), and the new start time only gives me around 30 minutes of additional sleep in the morning—a very minimal increase. Moreover, the increased traffic outside the school prevents me from sleeping in even later.
Even though 40 minutes doesn’t seem like much of a delay in my day, I feel like I am always running out of time and never having enough time to study for upcoming tests and quizzes, which possibly affects my grades. In addition to this, afternoon busses had to be reorganized and compressed this school year in order to transport both middle and high school students home, making bus rides much longer and causing a further delay for students.
As someone who has an after-school job, I had to change my schedule so that my shifts start at 3:30 p.m. instead of 2:30 or 3:00 p.m. because I will not be able to make it to work on time. It isn’t just me experiencing this; I have heard from classmates that they had to stop working during the school week entirely, as the delay hinders their ability to manage their time.
I am glad to have an administration that is willing to make changes and do what’s best for students, based on a significant amount of research. That being said, I think it would be really important for administrators to listen to student opinions and take into account what we want. I am not calling out the administration, because the change was based on years of research, causing them to believe that delaying start time would benefit students. Surprisingly, I am not the only student who isn’t loving the new start time and have heard from many other students that they enjoyed being able to get out at 1:50.
I certainly don’t believe that the start time should be reversed, as Algonquin has spent a lot of time and money in order to change it. However, I think it is essential that everyone’s opinions are assessed when making decisions such as this one.
Yes, the new start time and schedule lead to more engaging school days
I remember back to three years ago when I began my school days with US History I. Everyone was exhausted, and almost no one had the motivation to contribute to the class or even talk to friends. It was a very uneventful way to start the day.
Now, with the new start time of 8 a.m., I am able to walk into class ready to focus and socialize. I notice the same of the people around me. The classes at the start of my day, unlike three years ago, are now just as engaging as the classes at the end of my day.
While 40 minutes is not a colossal shift, I feel that the new start time has led students to not only participate more in their classes but also enjoy them more.
With the new start time, the first period of the day is essentially taking place when period two used to be. With this change, I feel more energized during this first period.
This is largely because the 8 a.m. start allows students to sleep later. I have definitely been able to sleep better this year compared to previous years. I’m waking up at a time that feels more natural for me, so I’m less reliant on my alarm; with the old schedule, I had to set five of those just to get out of bed. While I did get into a bad habit of staying up late during the pandemic, I am at least going to bed around the same time I did last year, and the extra sleep in the morning gives me more energy throughout the school day.
This doesn’t just apply to me, though. I think that the new start time generally aligns better with the body clock of the typical high school student. According to the Sleep Foundation, there is a biological shift that occurs in most teenagers during puberty known as a “phase delay.” This delays the optimal time for sleep, and the typical teenager operates best on a schedule where they go to sleep around 11 p.m. and wake up around 8 a.m. While the 8 a.m. start time does not align perfectly with these hours, students can still receive a solid 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep and make it to school on time if they go to bed at 11 p.m.
Regarding delays in the lunch schedule or the end of the school day, personally, I don’t mind them. You might think that people would get hungry waiting around for a 12:30 p.m. third lunch. However, it seems that even more people had this problem during the day when we were using the old schedule since people had less time in the morning to eat a balanced breakfast. Getting out at 1:50 was always nice, but a 2:30 finish still gives students plenty of time for clubs, sports, homework and other extracurriculars. Plus, the schedule has been designed so that the periods towards the end of the day are on the shorter side, making the end of the day go by faster.
Some individuals have also been concerned about the lack of time between the end of the school day and the beginning of sports practices, as many student-athletes need time after school to attend other clubs or meet with a teacher. Even with the old schedule, clubs and extra help sessions took place at the same time, making it difficult for students to divide their time. However, the positive difference that the start makes in the morning is far more impactful than the shift from 1 hour to 30 minutes for these after-school activities. Most clubs and activities tend to keep their meetings around 30 minutes anyways.
I do understand where people are coming from when they say the new start time has done more harm than good. A number of sacrifices have been made in order for this to work, but the new start time is allowing students to be more energized and enthusiastic to participate in-class activities and make the most of their school days. I feel that these somewhat minor sacrifices are worth it for the benefits this schedule brings.