By: Magdalena Rogers
Recently a survey went out to Hamden students, parents, and educators about potentially changing the school start times for Hamden High School, Hamden Middle School, and Hamden elementary schools. This proposed change was due to a lack of funding for buses. The survey asks if you would rather have the high school hours be 7:30am-1:59pm, the middle school hours be 8:00am-2:34pm, and the elementary school hours be 8:35am-3:24pm, or have all of the schools start ten minutes earlier. This is a seemingly small change;, however, it raises the question, should our schools really be starting at these times?
A couple months back I wrote an article on the importance of sleep in teenagers, and how lacking sleep schedules can negatively impact us. I created a mock schedule of a high school aged student and explained how it was unrealistic to have a healthy sleep schedule with the amount of work and commitments students have, and as one may guess, the early high school start time does not help this issue. According to kidshealth.org, teenagers and adults naturally go to sleep later and wake up earlier than adolescents because of the time of day that melatonin, a sleep hormone, is released in the body. Based on that information, one could assume that as students age, their schools would start later. It’s quite the opposite.
So, why not start high school later, and elementary school earlier? Strictly speaking of elementary schools, earlier start times means parents can get young children off to school earlier and parents have more time to get to work. High schoolers get to sleep a bit more, and rush less in the morning, which can lead to decreased stress levels. It all seems great, parents get to work, kids are at school, and high schoolers get an extra hour of sleep. However, a large problem lies in the dismissal times. Starting school later naturally means having a much later dismissal. This can impact out of school activities, especially in high schoolers who have a job or after school sports, and it requires parents to find early afternoon childcare for their young children.
This brings us to our conclusion. Is Hamden going to follow the science and have school hours better align with the natural rhythms of our bodies, or are they going to prioritize the option with the least scheduling and financial conflict? Well, unfortunately, the proposal of the earlier start times means that they’re going for the latter. The reality of the situation is, this idea of earlier start times stems from money, or more accurately a lack thereof. This change is a solution to a problem;, it’s not a change that was initiated because of student health reasons, so it is unlikely that it will be seriously taken into account when this issue is resolved. However, this begs one final question: Is the health of our students a true priority, or is it a superficial one? Anyone who walks around our school or talks to students on a daily basis can see that we are not getting enough sleep and are feeling the consequences. So why isn’t anyone doing anything about it?
If you have not yet taken the school start time survey, please do so now, as your opinion as students and educators especially matters in this issue! The survey is open until 10 AM on March 15th.