Point: Late-Start Wednesdays: Detrimental or Good for Teen Health

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Point: Late-Start Wednesdays: Detrimental or Good for Teen Health

Elaina Martin, Opinions Editor

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   Last year, UC High’s Site Governance Team held a vote to decide whether or not to employ “late-start Wednesdays” for the 2018-2019 school year. Intended to help the UC High student population become more well rested, the committee pushed the vote through and a new schedule was conceived and implemented.

   There’s no denying it — the pro-late start side of the argument has put some compelling evidence on the table. According to Time Magazine, teens have an easier time falling asleep later and waking up later (time.com). The National Sleep Foundation has stated that science and research have both proven that a later start can benefit students’ academic performance, attitudes, and overall health (sleep.org). A late start could theoretically serve to create an environment beneficial for all UC High students — if it was done right.

    While this might be true, it seems like most students preferred early-out Wednesdays to the new late-start ones. Not only were they a good chance to allow students time to hang out with friends, but early out Wednesdays also served students by helping them get started on homework and get assignments done before bed. Senior Connor Martin said, “There’s no time to do anything after school because I have sports. I try to wake up at the same time every morning, so the late start doesn’t help me get more sleep.” Provided that they budgeted their time wisely, some students even made it to bed early with the old system.

   One could argue that students might make up this lost studying time in the morning, before school. This, however, is contradictory to the whole purpose of the late-start Wednesdays — the entire purpose of the late start was to allow students extra time to sleep.

      The late start is also having effects on classroom attendance. Traffic is far worse after eight o’clock, increasing time on the road, especially for students who do not live in the UC area. Because of this, students are arriving to school tardy, sometimes very tardy. For teachers, this is extremely disheartening, sometimes even causing panic, considering that every minute of class counts. Teachers don’t want students to miss class or have to go over missed material with every late student. AP Statistics Teacher Margaret Schmitten said, “On [these] days, I have to wait because kids are late, the buses are late. I have to wait because [on late-start Wednesdays] half of the class is missing.”

   Among the compelling arguments for later start times was research done relating the teen circadian rhythm to waking up in the morning. The circadian rhythm, which according to UCLA Health is like an internal clock, shifts during puberty to make teens want to go to sleep at later times and wake up later (uclahealth.org). Thus, it would make sense that late starts would improve some aspects of student education. According to the National Sleep Foundation, schools that changed their start times reported an increase in their students’ productivity, grades, and a decrease in drowsy driving and negativity.

   This is all well and good, but the main point of the research was consistency, implying that a late start would be beneficial only if employed all days of the week. Many students have already commented on how they feel worse and more tired because of the disturbance in their normal sleeping routine. Schmitten remarked on this, saying “The thing about wake up times is that kids need to be consistent. Waking up the same time every day is important.”

   Another issue is how little say students had in the matter. Amidst the plethora of evidence for later start times, no one really stopped to consider the effect these times would have on students’ social lives, extracurriculars, or workloads.  The Governance Team voted this in. Maybe a school-wide vote could have brought the student perspective for the Team to consider.

   Yes, a later start time might be beneficial, but the benefits of the early-out schedule far outweigh the alleged benefits of a late start one day a week. In the end, even pushing the everyday start time back 30 minutes and keeping early-out Wednesdays would be a better solution to the teen sleep issue than an approximate hour-and-a-half disturbance in the student schedule. The schedule was created with good intentions, but it wasn’t the change the students of UC High needed.

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