An Update On The Debate Over School Start Times

An Update On The Debate Over School Start Times

Sarina Goyal, Staff Writer

As most high schoolers know, waking up in the morning to get to school on time is no easy feat. With a bright and early start time of 7:30, most high schoolers wake up before the sun rises. Recently, LMSD has been considering the idea of changing school start times for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. The proposed change (starting in the fall of 2020) would be scheduled like this:

Elementary 7:45 AM – 2:35 PM 6 hours, 50 minutes

Middle 9:05 AM – 4:05 PM 7 hours

High 8:25 AM – 3:25 PM 7 hours 

As with any new suggestion, this idea comes with pros and cons. It’s a well known fact that teenagers are at a critical age for brain development and require at least eight hours of sleep to function properly. High school’s early start time has caused controversy, with many students complaining they are not receiving sufficient sleep.

According to a survey conducted by LMSD, 66% of secondary students reported getting less than the recommended 8 to 10 hours of sleep on a typical school night. The average Harriton High School student finishes school at 2:40, participates in an extracurricular activity or a job for a couple of hours, and then begins homework once they return home. As a result, many Harriton students are getting much less sleep than they need, which can result in chronic sleep loss.

On the other hand, parents of elementary schoolers don’t like the idea of their young children walking in the dark to and from the bus stop, and some also argue that they need their older kids home first in order to take care of their younger ones.

From a high school perspective, some students feel that the earlier start time is a better option because of sports and clubs. If school were to end an hour later, so would all after school activities, which means students might not return home until 9. Lower Merion School District also needs to consider the transportation changes that would need to be implemented to ensure there are enough school buses. 

The Lower Merion Board of School Directors held a meeting on Monday, January 27th, addressing the debate over start times and considering different perspectives. According to notes from the meeting regarding the opinion of members from the community, “most agreed that high school students should have a later start time; however, many expressed concerns that the current proposal placed undue pressures on elementary students and their families and argued that all schools should start after 8:30 a.m.”

The meeting also acknowledged “the needs of low-income and single-parent families, special needs students and changing how homework is assigned.” A full video of the meeting will be available on the website later this week for anyone who is interested in learning more. 

There was also a discussion panel held on Wednesday, February 5th, so students from Radnor talk could speak about their own experiences with the later start times. Radnor has successfully made this change and has had later start times for a year now.

As of right now, it appears that the start times will not be switched due to lobbying from parents of elementary schoolers. The LMSD school board will be voting on pushing back start times this Spring. Now is the time to learn everything about this issue and advocate for what you believe in. Ways to become more informed include attending the meetings and watching the videos posted on the LMSD website.