Bolton’s Bias: Later start times translate to happy students

Opinion Editor Will Bolton discusses his opinion with anyone who will listen, in person. This column gives him a place to do it where people can escape from his tirades on everything from school programs to American politics by just putting the article down—although given a chance they probably won’t want to.


It goes without saying that the dull ache of sleep deprivation is an absolutely draining feeling. It saps you of energy, motivation, and the brain power to use either of them. During numerous first mod math, science, history and english classes throughout high school I have simply begun dreaming of my pillow, in some cases quite literally because I have fallen back asleep.

Everyone knows that to function, people need enough sleep. For high schoolers, that means around nine hours, according to the Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Unfortunately the demands of school, sports, and extracurriculars mean that the age humans need sleep the most, they often get the least.

The problem is that there is no obvious solution to an issue which faces a wide variety of kids for an even wider variety of supposed reasons. Trying to get every high schooler to bed earlier is akin to trying to get every one up earlier, simply not an option, as lots of parents can attest.

Luckily, the medical field has some answers: in an article by NBC, the American Academy of Pediatrics urged schools to move back start times to 8:30 a.m. or later because, “there is a natural delay in fall-asleep time and wake time. So that the average teenager can’t fall asleep much before 11 o’clock.”

It turns out that high schoolers haven’t just been procrastinating and watching too much Netflix, we are biologically programmed to stay up later. Now that may seem like a small issue, and maybe I should stop whining about a half hour of sleep, but let’s put it this way: if we could do something to help cure obesity and depression while protecting kids from car accidents, why wouldn’t we?

The answer is that we would, if the problem was understood to be as severe as it is. By moving school start time back just a half hour we could do just that, according to the AAP.

Not only would it help the student body, but it would help the admissions office. I can only imagine how much more easily the admission staff could attract prospective students with a nice big sign announcing an 8:30 a.m. start time and a list of the medically accredited health benefits. By moving back the start time, JC could dramatically widen their prospective student pool. Waking up at 5:30 a.m. to commute to school is a significant downside for students from outside of Harford County, and this would allow these students to wake up at a reasonable hour.

A later start time does result in a later end time, but considering a large portion of students can drive, and there is a huge carpool system in addition to the bus service, the change could be accomplished quite smoothly.  An 8:30 a.m. class time still means that students would be getting dropped off a half hour earlier than most parents have to clock in at work.

Now where drop-off may have been an initial hassle, it seems as if pick-up would actually become easier. School would end at 3:15 p.m. Considering most jobs do not end until 5 o’clock, students without after school activities would have to wait a half hour less to get picked up. Practices and rehearsals would go longer, but weighing the overall benefits in mood and energy, parents might actually enjoy dinner conversations, even if they are pushed back.

Considering the benefits on the health and happiness of students, and everyone who has to deal with them, this argument practically writes itself. The only question I can find is if this can be accomplished before my graduation.

Will Bolton is the Perspectives Editor for The Patriot and