Study predicts $83 billion in savings with later school start times

Gabriella Backus, Online Editor-in-Chief

Undoubtedly students want to stay in bed in the morning as long as possible. Some teachers even feel that way — but, research concludes, getting those extra minutes of sleep could actually improve students’ performance.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), released a statement August 25, 2014, recommending middle and high schools delay their start times to 8:30 or later.

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” pediatrician and author of AAP statement Judith Owens said in the published 2014 issue. “Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn.”

After hitting puberty, the adolescent brain experiences a shift in its “sleep-wake schedule”: it will now operate best given 8-10 hours of sleep. However, the average student reports getting under seven hours of sleep a night.

The evidence has begun to pile up as numerous studies, including those from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Medical Association (AMA), and, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM). All come to similar conclusions pointing towards a lack of sleep. These studies promise economic as well as individual benefits will arise if schools take their advice.

Recently, RAND Corporation released a study in August 2017 predicting a $83 billion contribution to the American economy in under a decade if schools change to later start times.

Although there would be small funding setbacks, the net gain would outweigh costs per student, most of which comes from rescheduling bus routes.

Referring to the aforementioned benefits, bill SB-328 introduced by Senator Anthony Portantino suggested starting at least past 8:30 a.m. Four hundred school districts across the country have adopted similar bills and seen dramatic success.

Lodi Unified School District has also considered delaying start times. In 2015, a local father complained about the early start for Bear Creek; he thought that because teenager’s brains requiring a later start in the day to function properly, students were forced to wake up too early. LUSD then asked parents to come to meetings at schools across the District to debate whether starting later would be beneficial; at one point, parents proposed starting as late as 10:30.

In theory, the schedule change seems promising. However, the opposition to these claims is rather blatant: students are not the only people affected. Teachers, bus drivers, parents, and other school staff would be forced to alter their schedules to fit the sudden shift. SB-328 was shut down by the California School Board Association for just that reason.

Proponents of the status quo argue starting school later will also let students out later, who will in turn start sports and clubs later, get home later, start homework later, and, eventually, stay awake later. This would defeat the purpose of starting early to get a full 8-10 hours of sleep adolescents need to function properly.

“[Students] are going to have to come to school tired, fatigued, and not focused,” chemistry teacher Han Nyugen said. “If you start later…they’re going to push back their bedtime and be tired anyway.”

Perhaps an early start isn’t the most draining part of a student’s day. Some students say it would likely benefit schools to distribute less time-consuming homework, which students can waste hours toiling over with little comprehension.

“Giving students less busy work and instead increasing the quality of the work is more beneficial,” sophomore Bailey Kirkeby said. “For example, I have less homework in AP European History, but it’s more effective in helping me comprehend the content and reflect on what I’m learning.”