When Should School Start?


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Recently, there’s been a push all across the garden state to give teenagers just a bit more time to snooze; including in the legislature. A bill introduced in 2022, A3816, would place a mandated starting time for high schools at 8:30 a.m. In a poll conducted in February of this year by Fairleigh Dickinson University, over half of the NJ parents surveyed support starting high school at 8:30 (the average start time for NJ highschools is around 7:50). Concerns over whether teens are getting adequate sleep are real, and many point to the school system when their children are tired. But how much would a pushback help the situation? Should a bill such as A3816 be passed?

Many factors can influence how much sleep a person gets, ranging from medical conditions to overactivity. Mental conditions, such as depression, can cause a person to lose sleep. Insomnia is also a side effect of anxiety and general stress. One in seven adolecents develop a mental disorder before the age of 20, making this group incredibly susceptible to sleeplessness, among other things. Technology can also play a role; light from cellphones and other screens can trick a brain into thinking that it’s daytime, making falling asleep harder. To counteract such issues, schools can be opened at a later time. Chatham High School in Morris County implemented an 8:30 start and found that under 20% of students don’t get enough sleep, which is impressive compared to the average 72% of U.S. teens who sleep less than 8 hours a night. 

Though a later start does have a proven benefit on student health, there are drawbacks to forcing all schools to start at the same time. Many parents have two children that need to be dropped off at different schools. In North Arlington, Veterans Middle Schools and NAHS, which sit next to each other, start at 7:45, while the elementary schools start at 8:30. If all schools started at 8:30, there would be practically no time for a parent to drop a child off at middle/high school and then drive to an elementary school to drop off another. Schools would also have to end later to ensure students learn just as much in one day. Every program tied to the school, such extracurricular activities including sports and transportation, would experience major scheduling changes.

Whether through later openings or other means, it’s clear that something should be done to ensure children and teens get the sleep they need. The idea of an 8:30 starting time is becoming more and more popular.