It is no secret that RHS has a start time problem. The first period of the day is accented by students running off of Dunkin and little sleep. Students should just go to bed earlier, right? The answer is not as clear-cut as some may think.
You look up from your soggy bowl of Cheerios at the clock. It’s 7:35 AM. You throw on any old hoodie and sweatpants and run out to the car only to discover that the windshield is all iced over. After barely even scratching the surface of the ice, you finally ditch the ice scraper and floor the gas all the way to Van Dien. You pull up on Beverly right at 7:42 AM and run out of the car, summoning your pre-historic instincts to dash across a lane of angry parents in SUVs and catch the door at 7:44 AM. You run up the stairs to the third floor, out of breath, your phone’s clock strikes 7:45 AM, open the door to your classroom and your teacher hasn’t even arrived yet from their 6:30 AM commute from South Jersey.
It doesn’t have to be this way—and plenty of teachers, students, scientists, and parents are advocating against it.
According to TIME magazine, “studies have suggested that later school starts can benefit adolescents and teens, who scientists say are wired to stay up late and sleep in.” Middle and high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 AM, says the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). In their statement, the AASM argues that as a result of puberty delaying the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, it is difficult for middle and high school students to fall asleep before 11 PM. They write, “a teenager who goes to bed at 11 p.m. would need to sleep until 7:30 a.m. or later in order to obtain sufficient sleep.” So if classes start at 7:45 AM, a healthy teenager would only have 15 minutes to get ready and be out the door, which is almost impossible for students. Therefore, for students to both get a proper amount of sleep and have a healthy morning routine, the start time would have to be adjusted.
The most striking problem within the district is that classes at RHS begin at 7:45 AM while Ridgewood elementary schools start at 8:45 AM, an hour later. This is very surprising, considering the fact that young elementary school kids can go to sleep earlier because many have not undergone puberty yet and as a result of going to bed so early, can wake up earlier with no consequences. High school students, the ones that really need the sleep, are the ones that have to wake up earlier in comparison to younger students in the district.
The start time of 7:45 AM, when examined through the lens of objective science, is absurd. No student should be expected to go to school at 7:45 AM. Students do too much as it is, and making the day start later would be a health benefit. Sure, some students would choose to wake up at 7:00 AM and do the days homework, but that is a personal choice. Other students would use the time to sleep in and show up to school feeling happy and energized.
It is a good thing that RHS has taken steps such as introducing sleep-in days, but moving them from Wednesdays to Fridays and making them less frequent throughout the average month is unfair. It seems counterproductive to the argument administrators and students have been making for years.
However, there is a common sense solution to this problem: introduce a new start time of 8:45 AM every single day of the year.
Graphic: Amelia Chen