Don’t Hate, Start Late


Sharada Saraf

Alison Shikada ('16) demonstrates the struggle that all Pres girls face in the morning.

It’s 7:45 a.m. The second bell has just rung, and my first period class is hardly your standard picture of enthusiastic students ready to learn and participate. It’s more like twenty girls have just been dragged out of bed and forced to crawl hopelessly to class.

To my left, a girl stifles a yawn behind her hand. To my right, someone rests her head on her folded arms, hoping to catch a few more minutes of sleep before lecture starts. Sound familiar?

Pres girls have a reputation for vocally expressing their dissatisfaction, but if there’s one thing that students have said, or will say, more than anything else during their four years, it would probably be a close tie between, “I’m so tired,” and “I literally got five hours of sleep last night!”

Teachers and parents point fingers at us, saying that it’s no one’s fault but the student’s own and, to some extent, it’s true. C’mon, admit it. We’re the ones who spend hours on social media. We’re the ones who are frantically finding quotes for our CRPs the night before.

But contrary to common belief, our problems with exhaustion go beyond procrastinating math homework until 11 p.m.; it extends to how our bodies work, and how the time that school starts simply does not correspond to our natural sleeping patterns.

TIME reported that “fewer than one in five middle and high schools in the U.S. start at the recommended 8:30 a.m. start time or later.” The earliest start time in the country came from the Louisiana public school system: 7:40 a.m., which is when the first bell at Pres rings.

Pres, along with many other high schools across the country, doesn’t take into account that, according to CDC epidemiologist Anne Wheaton, “In puberty, biological rhythms commonly shift so that adolescents become sleepy at night and need to sleep later in the morning.”

Instead of putting the full responsibility of sleeping earlier on its students, Pres should recognize that sleeping late is something that Pres girls can’t help: it’s how the teenage body works. Our school can take care of its students better by starting later to adjust to sleeping patterns that teens don’t have control over.

If that’s not enough, the benefits of a later start are obvious. According to The Atlantic, students would be more alert, less likely to be tardy, and most importantly, more receptive to new information. It’s common knowledge that teachers often dread teaching first period classes – the zombie-like moans from students and lack of participation doesn’t make for a good learning environment.

“When I go to school in the morning, I want to crawl back into bed and not do anything,” says senior Renuka Garg. “We have to be at school way too early for us to be functional and there are multiple studies that prove this. Coupled with the amount of homework we get, it’s impossible for us to get enough sleep every night!”

Garg’s sentiment reflects the opinion of most of the student body. If Pres started an hour later, things would be better for both students and teachers. Students would learn better, and teachers would teach to a more awake, keen, and enthusiastic class.

Unless Pres solves the rampant problems of exhaustion and sleepiness with its students, the school could be dealing with bigger issues that result from fatigue, such as poor performance, unhealthy risk behaviors, and depression.

Not only would the student body’s health improve, but major problems like driving safety would also be alleviated with a later start. “If I roll out of bed later than usual, I find myself waiting in a 40 car line just to get to school,” complains senior Mariah Stewart. “Drivers can be aggressive, cutting each other off and ignoring stop signs. All I can say is that I don’t feel safe pulling into school.”

With Willow Glen High School and St. Christopher starting before 8 a.m., a 8:45 a.m. start at Pres would reduce traffic jams, and make things safer for young drivers. The consensus among students is that turning onto Plummer is dangerous, and drivers are more aggressive because of the high volume of traffic coming from nearby schools.  Pres starting an hour later may solve a problem which has been plaguing the entire area for years.

People may say that a later start may not do any good for students whose parents’ early work times make a 7:45 a.m. start a necessity. However, being at Pres before school starts has its own benefits: it allows students to catch up on homework, meet with teachers, and socialize with friends. It may even let those students have a good night’s sleep because of all the work finished in the morning.

And, yes, starting later would make things a little difficult for athletes, who might have to miss more class when they’re in season, but being well-rested will make up for it. They’ll be more alert, more efficient with their time, and better able to juggle their responsibilities. And once Pres leads the way, the other WCAL schools might just follow our sensible lead.

Improving the overall health, alertness, and safety of the student body requires action from both us and our school, and the first step that Pres can take is starting just an hour later to benefit all.