See You Later? District Looks At Later Starts

Peach Schilling, Rambler Associate Editor

Five more minutes. Every high school student wants five more minutes after the blaring alarm sounds at 7 a.m. The Salt Lake City School District may make this a possibility for students next year. And five more minutes could become 60.
Biologically, sleep patterns for both falling asleep and waking up shift in adolescence. Staying up later than younger children and older adults is normal for teens, and it is natural to not be able to fall asleep before 11 p.m.
With school starting at 7:45 a.m., however, most students are unable to get the recommended 8-10 hours of restful sleep needed for healthy development. One study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that only 15 percent of students get 8.5 hours of sleep or more on school nights.
“I understand that there is data about sleep and getting more sleep, but there is also the reality of pushing the start time later and students going to bed later,” Highland principal Chris Jenson said. “A time change is meaningless, unless there is a change in behavior. If we actually get more sleep from teens and we have a performance enhancement as a result, then great.”
Four options of schedules were proposed by the board, all of which have one group of schools start at a given time and the second group of school start 45 minutes later, due to district busing purposes. For Highland, the options stand as follows: A) start at 8:15 a.m., end at 2:55 p.m.; B) start at 7:45 a.m., end at 2:25p.m.; C) start at 8 a.m., end at 2:40 p.m.; D) start at 8:45 a.m., end at 3:25 p.m.
Asking any high schooler if they want school to start later everyday would most likely lead to an immediate answer of yes. The conflicts the change would cause, however, may be more serious.
SLCSD’s Board of Education has contracted Y2Analytics in order to gather input from the community and found that 82 percent of all parents/guardians that completed the survey support the idea of starting school later, but only if it does not affect start times for elementary and middle schools.
District forums told a different story and parents who were able to share their thoughts in person voiced their concerns about the change.
“I support late start in high schools because of the research,” one anonymous parent said on the Y2Analytics report. “However, I know that my younger children also need sleep and do not want their elementary school to have to start earlier in place of the high school.”
Highland German teacher Maja Onda faces the same worries. If the district decides to make the change to start high schools later, Onda’s routine with her younger children would completely change.
“Personally, I love being able to pick up my elementary school aged kids and I don’t think I am the only one who has the problem with childcare,” Onda said. “There are some families that rely on their high school kids to take care of younger siblings.”
Junior Stefany Fregoso and many other Highland students are responsible for picking up their siblings and getting them home safely. When Fregoso’s school day comes to an end, the public city bus drops her off in front of Liberty Elementary, where she meets her 10-year-old sister. Together, they walk home to begin homework while their mom finishes her workday.
“If the schedule changed, she would walk alone. That’s the only thing she could do because my mom works,” Fregoso said. “My mom would be worried because of how little she is.”
Along with finding childcare, working parents are going to struggle to find a way to get their high schoolers to school if start times are later. Another problem that arises is scheduling for sports and other extracurriculars. If Salt Lake is the only district that changes, students will be missing more school to attend games and other events.
“If we push the end of the day too far, we are going to have more kids missing more class time for athletics,” Jenson said. “The biggest problem will be making practices and other programs later.”
The district has decided to extend its listening tour throughout February and is working on a schedule to implement a schedule that will benefit students and families the most. For now, Highland families are left to wait and see what new schedule, if any, the board chooses.