The Upper School’s starting time should be 9:05 AM

Jared Tillis kicks off the Dial Online’s monthly column series

By Jared Tillis, Science and Tech Editor

Students are not getting enough sleep. Despite clear health recommendations for students to receive 8-10 hours of sleep per night, a National Sleep Foundation poll found more than 87% of high school students in the United States get far less than this amount. A report from Stanford Medicine finds that this sleep deprivation increases the likelihood teens will suffer several negative consequences, including an inability to concentrate, poor grades, drowsy-driving incidents, anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide and even suicide attempts. The start of school should be moved forward to 9:05 AM in order to allow students to get more sleep.

Sleep affects the success of a student in all aspects. Academically, studies have shown that students are less able to concentrate in their classes if they are not well-rested. They are also less inclined to spend time on homework after school, which makes them fall behind in their classes. Students will also be unable to play their sport at a high-level and will have an increased likelihood to develop mental health issues.

There are other prospective ways to solve the issue of sleep, including holding parents accountable and limiting screen time for children. However, none of these solutions will be as immediate, and advocating to control screen time will likely only increase tensions and incentivize more rebellious actions. The only truly effective option left is to change the school day from 8:05-3:05 to 9:05-4:05. Starting school later would be beneficial to teenagers because of the state of their circadian rhythms, along with the fact that they perform best later in the morning.

The Hackley administration seems to have recognized this potential alternative. The new Strategic Plan will aim to redefine the typical school day. According to Andy King, the Director of the Upper School, the Strategic Plan will not only examine start times but the length of each period, whether or not to have consecutive periods, if school should run from Monday-Friday, the Day 1-7 system, trimester vs. semesters, the number of exams given, etc. Mr. King also raised the idea of potentially moving the school day forward a half an hour, noting that a full hour might be too drastic. He ultimately explained that any decision will be based on priorities and what the Hackley administration feels will be most conducive to a “student-friendly schedule”.

It is a common belief among faculty that students are not receiving adequate sleep each night. Science teacher, Kerry Clingen, explains that from a biological standpoint, sleep is one of the most important aspects of our wellbeing that we can control. Mr. King believes that the concept of moving school to 9:05 seems like a good idea in theory, noting that “third period is the sweet spot; if every class started then, both students and teachers would work better.” He also understands the research and various studies proving the health benefits of gaining an extra hour of sleep on the teenage brain, the exact logic behind the Senior Sleep program that is currently in place.

However, there are potential pitfalls to a 9:05-4:05 school day. Mr. King outlined how tricky the situation truly is, particularly due to the bus schedule. He even noted that Hackley is “reliant on buses” to function properly, and changing the schedule would throw the entire system off.

Ultimately, however, the Upper School should be moved back to 9:05-4:05. While there are clearly logistical issues that will need to be worked out, the benefits from the extra hour of sleep will have a significantly positive effect on the student body, who are currently overwhelmed due to stress. Sleep will determine the success of students on and off the Hilltop as they undergo some of the most important years of their youth.