School start times spark debate

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“I’m always like, really tired.”

School start times affect students and administrators across Texas every day. Whether it be sleep, grades, extracurriculars, or overall motivation for class, it’s easy to take a stance on the matter of earlier or later beginnings, but on a wider scale the many factors involved add a whole new layer to academic life. 

Information about school start times. Graphic by Olivia Masterson

Around Texas, finding a middle ground in which to start school is a multifaceted concept, considering transportation, student health and following regulations for the University Interscholastic League (UIL). No school district works on the exact same schedule and with so many moving parts, some find their start ranging anywhere from 7:20 to 9:00 A.M.

While a school start time may be functional in theory, for seniors at Comstock High School like Mykel Valdez who takes college level courses and participate in track, tennis, and golf, a start at 7:50 A.M. is not as accommodating for sleep or homework.

“I still need time to wake up,”  Valdez said. “I never look forward to my first class. I fall asleep sometimes I’ll be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I have to catch up all over again.’”

Balancing multiple extracurriculars and at the pace of an advanced international learning program could put an extreme demand on the lives of students, but for Klein Oak High School junior, Alessandra Esquivel, a consistent bedtime of 9:30 P.M. is what makes all the difference for a 7:20 A.M. tardy bell.

“I feel like I get a lot of sleep, I’m in the IB (International Baccalaureate) program too,” Esquivel said. “And I’ve heard all my friends are like, ‘Oh, I live five minutes away. I can get up at 6:45.’”

While there may be benefits to a later start for schools like more sleep or additional time for homework, student life would witness a mass butterfly effect in some manner. Bridgeland High School assistant principal Scott Beyer knows it would be difficult to find a compromise in a situation that affects as many moving parts in an efficient and fair manner to all groups involved.

“It’s a catch – 22,” Mr. Beyer said. “So if we do adjust that start time and say we’re starting later in the day, that means our dismissal time is also getting pushed back. Which means everything in the afternoon is later, so while we’d be sleeping in later in the morning, we’d be staying out much later.”

Transportation plays an increasingly relevant role in establishing a school’s start time, with routes and traffic influencing all aspects of both students and teacher’s commutes. In the heart of downtown Austin, Austin High School enacted the latest start time in their district to adapt to the morning rush. Journalism adviser Jenna Weber doesn’t mind their specific circumstances as she knows most schools cannot boast the same.

“I think the students can always use a little bit more sleep,” Ms. Weber said. “But I don’t know that going later into the day would be better.”

 

This story was created for the In-Depth Package competition at TAJE’s Fall Fiesta.