Feature Story — Maria Parfenova

Is School Starting Too Early?

By Maria Parfenova

The teenage brain is not running on a good night’s sleep and plenty of relaxation. It’s running on 5 hours of it and a cup of coffee. Staying up a few hours late while cramming studying in hopes of doing well on that test first period actually minimizes learning and recalling abilities, leading to poor performance.

A typical teeenager needs 9.25 hours of sleep for optimal performance. Since teens spend a great portion of each day in school, they do not maximize learning if they didn’t get enough sleep the night before.

Not getting the amount of sleep that is necessary may cause impaired cognitive function and may alter the reliability of decision making.

Lack of sleep leads to more serious complications, such as depression, poor impulse control, violence, and increased tobacco and alcohol use.

Besides imposing danger to themselves, teenagers who get a lack of sleep and get behind the wheel are at a much higher risk of drifting off and getting into a car accident.

Due to these dangers, Hopkinton High School is looking into delaying the start of the day, but the board is working around the fact that after school activities such as clubs and sports will also be pushed back, leaving students with less time to do homework.

Principal, Mr. Bishop, is testing the later start time by implementing a “Hiller Day” on the last Friday of each month. The school will review feedback from students to see if a thirty minute delay is effective.

Several schools across the state have already implemented a later start time including schools in Arlington, Duxbury, Eastham, Hingham, Marblehead, Marlborough, AMSA Charter School in Marlborough, Medway, Sharon Public Schools and Nauset High School, according to The Holliston Patch.

Student Elisabeth Christ says, “School should start at 9 am, no earlier than that.”

She adds that she has too many things to do to fall asleep before midnight, and she doesn’t have time for breakfast because she tries to maximize her sleep time.

Student Jessica Ruotolo, who has a mix of honors and AP classes in her schedule and is also a cast member of the theatre production, says it’s difficult for her to manage all of her responsibilities and get enough sleep.

“There aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. I barely get enough sleep to stay awake in class. My typical sleep time is anywhere between four to five hours.”

Jessica says she makes up for her lack of sleep on the weekends. Due to her shift in schedule, she falls asleep around 3am and sleeps in until 2 pm.

Sleep is a biological necessity, it’s just as important as eating or exercising. Teenagers, the age group that needs sleep the most, is the one that reports getting the least of it.

“When it’s time to wake up for school, the adolescent’s body says it’s still the middle of the night, and they’ve had too little sleep to feel even remotely alert.”, says expert on the Sleep Foundation.

Starting the day earlier in order for teachers and students to be home before 5 pm may seem logical, but teenagers who are in need of sleep for optimal growth are not benefitting from the early start.