To start school early or end later?

Published 11:09 am Friday, March 13, 2015

The American Academy of Pediatrics published a statement in August 2014, suggesting that middle and high schools across the country delay the start of the day to 8:30 a.m. or later. The recommendation would align school schedules with the biological sleep rhythm of adolescents, as studies show that teens who don’t get enough sleep often suffer from a decline in academic performance and mental health.

Next week, the Southampton County Public School Board will send surveys to parents, faculty and other stakeholders to gauge their thoughts on a potential change in start times, which could occur as early as next year.

While this recommendation makes sense from a scientific point of view, as it would be difficult for anyone to wake up and be alert for class at 8 a.m. after staying up well past 11 p.m. the night before, there are other factors in play that could make such a move ill-advised.

A byproduct of a later start time is obviously a later end time. While that would allow students to get the necessary 8-plus hours of sleep, it would also create a problem after the final bell. If students aren’t released until nearly 4 p.m., it may result in scheduling conflicts with extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, etc.

The board must ultimately decide if addressing one problem is worth creating another.