Dear Editors: School Start Time

School start time has become the focus of national attention with pre and post research on Seattle high school students released from the University of Washington and the Salk Institute of Biological Studies showing a median increase of 34 minutes of sleep each night for Seattle students as well as a 4.5% increase in median grades for these same students.  In 2017 Seattle high schools changed their start times to 8:45 a.m., which was 55 minutes later than the previous year’s start time.  Talawanda has considered later start times for the high school and here are two letters to the Editors of the Tribune weighing in from student perspectives:

Dear Editors:

In April earlier this year, the school board of Forest Hills School District unanimously approved the administration recommendation to push back school start times. Within the district, Anderson High School and Turpin High School, both located in Cincinnati, Ohio, saw their start times shifted from 7:20 a.m. to 8 a.m. District superintendent Scot Prebles strongly backed the decision, citing a Center for Disease Control study that stated 13-18 year olds need at least 8 hours of sleep a night.

Indeed, the Sleep Medicine study that the CDC quotes finds that not only do teens need a solid amount of sleep each night, but also that not enough sleep leads to learning and attention problems, forgetfulness, aggression, and a higher chance of developing depression or other mental health problems. Furthermore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) describes a slew of physical problems that chronic sleep deprivation — a condition that 87% of high schoolers have — can cause, including obesity and weight gain and an increased chance of illness. Having an early school start time also puts students who drive to school at a greater risk of getting into accidents. Due to all of these factors, the AAP recommends that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., which is significantly later than Talawanda’s current 7:15 a.m..

Opponents to a later start time have put forth concerns about the adjustment that families will need to make to the schedule. Concerns have also focused heavily on transportation and financial issues. However, these are all problems that can be solved or worked with. According to Trent Allen, the Senior Director of Community Relations for the San Juan Unified School District in California, families can actually adapt quite easily to new schedules if they are given enough time, resources, and knowledge to do so. From having families actively be engaged in the discussion of a new start time, as well as notifying the community in advance, there are many ways to solve the problem. To address transportation issues, there is nothing that says there will have to be more money spent on busing. As an alternative, for example, bus routes can be redrawn so that elementary, middle school, and high school students can share the same vehicles. Or, more parents can take their children to school on their way to work, as a way of working with the adjusted start time.

As Prebles of Forest Hills says, “the [time] change will better support student learning and wellness.” There are undoubtedly solutions that can be made to all of the concerns that have been raised about adjusting Talawanda’s start time. To those who carry on about financial repercussions or transportation issues as if they are insurmountable or unable to be worked around, let me ask one thing – what is more important? The well-being of students, or money?

The AAP asserts that getting enough sleep will result in improved behavior and learning skills, better emotional stability, and an overall better quality of life for high school students. Every morning, I go to my bus stop at 6:30 a.m., and for five months now, I have been following Talawanda’s 7:15 start time. As someone who takes extra courses and does many extracurriculars, I can say firsthand that 7:15 is too early for me and my peers to get an adequate amount of sleep. Nearly everyone is busy in high school, whether with sports, academics, or other activities, and, to make our lives easier, I advocate for the changing of Talawanda’s start time to at least 8:30 a.m.


Michelle M.


Dear Editors:

Recently there has been a call from the public to push back start times for the high school. The case has been made that school starting at 7:15 is detrimental to the health of Talawanda students. While research from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine stating that teenagers from 13 to 18 need eight to ten hours of sleep, has aligned with this view, the logistical stress of busing, sports, and the stress it would put on families, outweigh the benefits of the time change.

First is the issue of buses, with the current number of buses and elementary school schedule, it would be impossible to change the high school or middle school’s start time. Proponents for the change have suggested flipping the start and end times for the high school and middle school, and the elementary schools. This would make the start time and end times for the high school 9:00 and 4:00. This also goes with research that suggests that during adolescence, teenagers fall asleep later and stay tired later after they wake up.

While this may seem to solve the school start time puzzle, it creates additional problems with before and after school activities. Pushing the school day back an hour or ninety minutes would put additional strain on the buses because more students would need to take the bus instead of being dropped off by parents going to work. After school it would be a similar situation, families who are used to the current schedule might have to depend on bussing for transportation, adding more and more to the number of students using school transportation.

Busing reminds us of another question, what would happen to after school activities? Naturally practices would be pushed back by an hour or so, to account for the time change, but games or competitions would create the largest problems. This is because a change just for Talawanda wouldn’t mean a change for other schools, most likely sporting events would begin at the same time, giving our athletes less time to prepare. While the argument can be made that most team sit around for a long time after school anyway so the loss of an hour wouldn’t affect them. This isn’t true for other sports. For example the freshman basketball team often has games at 4:30. If the school start time was pushed back and hour, they would have only an hour and ten minutes, to drive to their opponent, warm up, and begin their game. That is just the beginning of the logistical nightmare that would result from changing the school start time.

Advocates for the change say that sports aren’t as important as brain development, and while this is true, it isn’t worth significantly hurting our sports to get a couple more minutes of sleep. In fact the only way that I would agree with the change, would be if there were a country, state, or even conference wide movement to push back start times. If that were the case no team would be a disadvantage if they started and ended later. A move like this would possibly improve the health of the student body, and level the playing field for teams.

As a student who has started school before 8:00 for three and a half years I can say that while I may be dreary at the beginning of the day, I appreciate the extra time I have after school, and the fact that it isn’t dark at the end of cross country practices. And while I have multiple after school activities, I still manage to finish my homework most nights and manage to sleep for eight or nine hours.


Daryl Z.

If you would like to weigh in on school start times, or any other issue important to Talawanda High School, please submit a letter to the editors for publishing consideration to  Include “Letter to the Editors” in the subject line.  All letters to the editors MUST be submitted through a Talawanda Google account for publishing consideration.