Student, administrator perspectives on later start times

Sep 21, 2017

Lucas Fischer

Student, Grade 11, Camden Hills Regional High School

It’s that time of year again; time to fish out old granola bar wrappers and crumpled up periodic tables from my backpack. Time to buy new pencils to replace the stubby, unusable bits left over from the last school year. However, there is a change: instead of beginning each school day at 7:40 in the morning, this year, school starts at 8:10 a.m.

This 30-minute change has resulted in alterations of the daily schedule. Homeroom, which was previously at the beginning of each school day, is now scheduled for the middle of the day, after second period. Each period now begins and ends at a different time. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the new schedule. It is like being a freshman again. Eventually, I’ll get the hang of it, but for these first few weeks, I’m still having to ask. Also as a result of the later start time is a later end time; the school day now concludes at 2:45 p.m. instead of 2:15, half an hour later.

These new changes are met with both positive and negative responses. Some of my classmates agreed that getting a half-hour more sleep is nice, but that it sometimes means they end up going to bed half an hour later. However, I find it much easier to wake up to be at school by 8:10 compared to waking up to be there at 7:40, like last year. For students who have sports practice in the morning, the half-hour change makes a larger difference. Having practice in the morning also frees up time in the afternoon, which is often found to be very useful.

However, there seem to be a few negative responses to the later start time as well. For students who have sports games in the afternoon, the half-hour shift means that those students miss more of their fourth period classes than before. Then, there’s also the argument that the later start just allows students to go to bed later.

“I don’t feel like I am getting more sleep because everything is just getting pushed back,” one of my friends told me.

Lastly, many people I talked to stated that they preferred to have home room at the beginning of the day instead of now having it in the middle. For many, homeroom is a sort of “buffer” period to wake up and get ready for class. Having homeroom at the beginning of the day also provides a time cushion in case students are late due to weather, as most prefer to miss homeroom time instead of class time.

Like many large changes, this schedule shift is met with mixed responses. After a few months, I predict that I will become more accustomed to the new schedule and will learn to accept the benefits and drawbacks. I also think that, as the sun rises later in the winter, having that extra half an hour will be the difference between waking up in the dark and waking up in the light. While it may seem like the new schedule is not much of an improvement than the old one, there seems to be more positive responses than negative ones. After all, waking up early is generally one of the least interesting activities for the teenage population.

 

Maria Libby, superintendent

MSAD 28/Five Town CSD

After a significant effort to respond to the clear body of research that supports later school start times for adolescents, MSAD #28 and the Five Town CSD shifted its start times this year. The high school and middle school start 30 minutes later, and the elementary school 15 minutes later. As with any major change, we have started the school year trying to work out the unexpected kinks. The first two weeks of school, bus schedules were not as predictable as we would have liked, but we have that pretty well ironed out at this point. Other kinks have been the high school Mid-Coast School of Technology bus departure from CHRHS and the St. George bus arrival. Again, we have worked these issues out as well.

There is no doubt that some students, parents, and teachers are still adjusting to the change. For some it is welcome, and for others it is no doubt frustrating, as it has had an impact on some morning work schedules. We also recognize that no matter what time school starts, and it starts anywhere from 7:15 to 9:30 across this country, people figure out how to adapt their schedules and strategies to make it manageable. We encourage parents to consider having their children ride the bus if the morning drop-off times no longer work.

In addition to some parent work schedules, one of the biggest negative impacts will be athletics. We have worked to minimize the number of times we arrive at competitors’ venues too early, thus maximizing class time, but students are definitely getting out of 4th period class at the high school earlier than before. That is somewhat compounded because we moved to class A in every nearly sport this fall which requires longer travel. The high school will be piloting a daily 25-minute “Jammer Time” in October which would combine homeroom and a short intervention period. If this works and the school decides to institute it, they have considered scheduling it after 4th period so that athletes will miss Jammer Time instead of the class time. That could help.

Another way we need the community to support this health effort is by not having practices start early in the morning – swimming, rowing, hockey, to name a few – as that defeats the purpose of a later start. We would appreciate consideration by outside organizations in this effort!

It is important to remember why this change was made. It was for the 690 high school students and the 360 middle school students to have the opportunity to arrive at school every day more alert and ready to learn. I am hearing in Lucas’s piece that some high school students miss having homeroom at the start of the day, as that provided yet another transition point to help wake up. That tells me that 30 minutes is something, but many students could use an even a later start! Some are also simply going to bed 30 minutes later, which is not the typical outcome for this change in most schools. Maybe our students will reflect the research that says they don’t go to bed later as time goes on.

We will plan to evaluate the impact of this change later in the year and will share that information with parents.

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