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Change Start Times

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Board Member Molly Aderholt

There is a lot of controversy regarding a later school start time here at Wheeling Park High School, but there is plenty of evidence that it would be beneficial to begin school later. 

According to the National Education Association, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later. Wheeling Park contradicts this science and is in the 9% that starts at 7:30 a.m. or earlier. 

Molly Aderholt, a member of the community, Board of Education, and parent of students in Ohio County Schools, feels strongly about implementing later school start times.

“Change is hard, but that does not mean it isn’t worth it to be able to achieve the end goal, which in this case is improved student health, well-being, academics, safety, and more,” said Aderholt.

In response to the challenges of cost, “I always say we spend a lot of money on a lot of things,” said Aderholt. “One of my duties as a school board member, as laid out in the law, is the health and well-being of students. This issue falls squarely within that duty. If we make a change that would have a significantly positive impact on student health, and correct something that currently, by all the science and data, actually has a negative impact on student health, I believe we should be willing to dedicate resources to that change. It is also important to note in calculating the costs that the state will reimburse us 80% of the cost of any new buses.”

“We have poured millions into our facilities over the last several years, which I support. I believe we should be willing to do the same for the health and well-being of our students,” said Aderholt.

Another member of the Board of Education, David Croft, is very strongly in favor of later start times and says he will do his very best to continue the discussion.

“Several plans have been and continue to be considered. Once the best plan is presented, as one Board of Education member, I will work with our central office, teachers, services personnel, and the community to address the challenges that arise. My goal is to mitigate the challenges that arise in implementing a later start time,” said Croft.

“If later start times aid in the student’s health, then every effort should be made to arrange for later start times.  Being aware of the science and not making the effort to implement a later start time would be, in my opinion, neglect of duty,” said Croft.

According to the American Psychology Association, studies from eight different states in a range of environments provide evidence that later school start times result in increased attendance rates, GPA, and test scores, and decreased disciplinary action, sleeping during instruction time, and student-involved car accidents.

The safety, attendance, academics, and mental and physical health of students are drastically improved by moving school back. 

Students achieve much higher scores and great improvement in academics when they get a sufficient amount of sleep and REM sleep is not interrupted. According to perfectscorer.com, one study from a school in Minnesota saw a net SAT improvement of 212 points in students when they moved the school start time from 7:25 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.

The mental health of students could be greatly improved with later start times, and therefore, more sleep. The Journal of School Health states that sleep deprivation is linked to anxiety, depression, obesity, physical activity, ideas of suicide, and overall health.

It is well documented that sleep deprivation is connected to bad decision-making and increased car accidents as there is more time for danger before parents get home when teenagers can get involved with bad things. 

Furthermore, driving while sleep-deprived is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level at the legal limit, as the crash risk is similar. The Central Bucks School District reports on how a Wyoming district moved start times from 7:35-8:55 a.m. and saw a 70% reduction in traffic accidents involving teens.

Sleep is related to all of these points, as it is proven that an increase in sleep will lead to all of these benefits. Some opposers of moving school later will propose that students will simply stay up later if school starts later; however, this is proven untrue.

Sleep is one of the most crucial things for adolescent development and success. According to the Sleep Foundation, 70% of high schoolers say they get inadequate amounts of sleep on school nights. 

In a poll put out on the Park Press Instagram page, 51% of students voted to start school later.

“I voted for a later start time because I feel like it will let me get a better night’s rest and have a better day to be more attentive in class,” said Kolten Whitmire, a sophomore.

According to UCLA Health, during adolescence, there is a natural shift in a teen’s circadian rhythm, which is the natural sleep cycle. This “sleep phase delay” is shifted by about two hours. This means that adolescents and teens fall asleep later than adults, and therefore, their important REM sleep occurs later than young children and adults do. 

To put this into perspective, an adolescent waking up around 5-5:30 a.m. is like an adult waking up at 3 a.m. every day while going to bed at 11 p.m. or later. Adolescents are proven to need and thrive on 8-10 hours of sleep, which is nearly impossible with the current start time.

Consistent with the science of adolescent biology, the research studied from other districts has supported that students whose schools start later still go to bed at the same time, but were able to get more sleep. 

Studies have proven that students who are more awake and alert are better learners, which would be beneficial for both the student and the teacher.

Not only is sleep crucial for everything mentioned above, but it is also crucial for the prevention of injuries, especially in sports.

There have been several concerns involving this movement, including after-school activities starting later. However, looking at our area, both Linsly and John Marshall begin school after 8:15 a.m. The students at those schools still play sports and are involved in after-school activities and jobs, which would be the same for Wheeling Park.

The plethora of research, opinions of students, and knowledge of Board Members further supports the school start time to be moved back.

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Alexis Bordas
Alexis Bordas, Staff Writer
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