Editorial: VBCPS changes high school start time

“Delaying high school start times could pose problems with bus schedules, after-school activities, and sporting events for the entire district. Changing the high school start time could have a domino effect on all the schools that could pose a logistical nightmare.” – Amy Morin, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)

Recently, the Virginia Beach City School Board made a unanimous decision to push up high school start times. High school currently starts at 7:20 a.m. and because students come from various distances, they may get up as early as 5 a.m. to get ready and leave on time. However, high school students do have an earlier 2:10 p.m. end time, allowing students time to take care of after school necessities.

It’s common knowledge that many average high schooler’s workloads are anything but light. Students in higher level or Advanced Placement (AP) courses normally have multiple hours of homework each night. Other students are asked to watch siblings or other family members after school and some students go directly to work after attending classes.  And, along with other responsibilities most high school students are involved in after school activities of some kind; these “extracurriculars” ranging from sports to clubs.

According to usnews.com, pushing up school start times will make practices and game times later for athletes, fine arts student performances will end later, and club sponsored events may last past early evening hours; all of which pushes back students’ entire evenings and often will not result in any additional sleep.

Furthermore, the Virginia Beach City Public School System (VBCPS) will be responsible for readjusting school activity schedules and bus schedules, as well as accommodating the needs of ALL students who are adversely affected by this time change. 

Pushing back school start times would make sense if early mornings and more or less sleep were the only issues, but they’re actually just the tip of the iceberg. Students’ activities are lengthened later into the day, creating conflict with starting homework at a reasonable hour and spending time with family and/or friends. Thus, the time students go to bed becomes even later, which doesn’t allow them to attain that extra hour of so of sleep, the whole goal of the start time change.

In a wtkr.com article, VBCPS Senior Executive Director of High Schools Daniel Keever stated that there is a significant amount of medical research around student health and well-being that suggests that adolescent students need more sleep at night.  Keever even cited one 2014 article on the topic that proved his case.

While it’s reasonable to cite the fact that teens need more sleep, the basis of this claim and how it’s supported makes no sense. It’s no lie that teens may need more sleep, but pushing up school start times will not achieve the desired affect.  In fact, many teens will use the opportunity as an excuse to stay up later.

Overall, the only ‘real’ factor in the average students’ life that will change is what time they need to be at school. The school day is the same length, the workload is the same, extracurriculars and after-school responsibilities will still exist. So, as students, who live the ‘teen lifestyle’,  this adjustment can lead to the basic assumption that our average amount of sleep will not be affected positively or negatively.

The research that was conducted and then cited consists of out-dated sources and unreliable statistics. It would have been wiser for the school system, instead of polling, to have spoken to the actual students to hear what we have to say about the things that will impact us the most.

By pushing the start of our day up, the school board will also be pushing back everything else in our day to day schedule. If anything, this makes it more difficult to get all of our responsibilities done at a reasonable time.

So, one must wonder if this unanimous vote will be worth the time and effort, along with the massive amount of changes it will take to reach the desired effect.