Local District Employs Late Start Time

Should Mehlville consider this program?

Lindbergh High School Welcomes Students and Staff

Photo by Lindbergh Schools

Lindbergh High School Welcomes Students and Staff

Here at Mehlville High School, we start school at 7:15 am. This start time, as compared to schools around us, such as Lindbergh High School, which starts school at 8 am, is much earlier than others. Having students get up so early in the morning is a big part of the reason we’re all so tired. We students are forced to stay up late with our responsibilities and forced to make it to school early, which as research has shown, is damaging our chances for success. 

As Horacio de la Iglesia, a professor of biology at the University of Washington said, “Scientists generally recommend that teenagers get eight to 10 hours of sleep each night. But early-morning social obligations — such as school start times — force adolescents to either shift their entire sleep schedule earlier on school nights or truncate it.” If scientists are wanting kids to get 8-10 hours of sleep, early start times like Mehlville are potentially preventing any chance of this. 

And what’s worse, as Gideon Dunster, a doctoral student in biology at the University of Washington, put it, is that if kids aren’t getting their 8-10 hours; 

“This has severe consequences for health and well-being, because disrupted circadian rhythms can adversely affect digestion, heart rate, body temperature, immune system function, attention span and mental health.”

If high school students do not get the sleep they need, then it not only affects their energy levels but their physical and mental health, alongside academics. We need sleep, and school start times need to accommodate us, not hinder us. 

To get a closer look at the logistics and effects as well as the potential chance for a later start time for Mehlville, my team and I spoke with the head principal, Dr. Jason Landherr. 

Landherr, when asked if he believed a later start would benefit students, stated that Mehlville is “one of the earliest start times in the county” and that “there’s a lot of research that shows teenage students would benefit from more sleep.” When asked if Mehlville’s current start time was effective, Landherr responded “I do think it’s early and probably too early.” He went on to say “I think if we pushed back by something small, like 15 minutes, it would have a positive impact.”

If Landherr has such a strong belief in the positive effects of a later start, then why hasn’t it been achieved for Mehlville? As Landherr put it: 

“If you start later you end later, so that impacts students in extracurriculars or working,” but to him; “right now we get out so early at 2:10, even pushing that back, 15, 20 minutes, I don’t think is going to impact any of those.” 

He also went on to say when discussing the chances for a later start at Mehlville, that “we have had conversations in the past, and in order for that to happen it’s really a district-level decision because it impacts bussing, so while it has come up at the district level, it hasn’t happened recently.” 

While a later start time would definitely change things logistically for Mehlville and the district, I for one remain hopeful we can start later to ensure students receive proper sleep.

Negative Effects of Early Starts (Photo by Jeff Camp, CDC)
Negative Effects of Lack of Sleep on Mental Health (Photo by Research.com, Ramsey et al)

Question & Answer with Mehlville High School counselor Mrs. Shelton:

Q: How do you believe a later start time would affect students?

A: I think a later start time could affect students in a lot of different ways. Positively, it would help with getting more sleep in the morning and it could help parents out with any younger siblings students might have that they could get on the bus in the morning. It could also help with your overall well being since you would have more time in the morning, but only if the student actually uses their time wisely and doesn’t wake up right before school.

Q: How do you think a later start time would affect school staff?

A: Well, having a later start time means having a later end time, meaning that the staff might have to rearrange some things in their personal life. Also, if you have a second job, it might be harder to balance everything with a later start time whether you’re a student or a staff member since with our current start time, you can work not too long after school and still get a good amount of work in. It would also benefit staff, though, because they would be able to get more sleep and wake up later in the morning.

Q: Do you think the current start time is effective?

A: Well, if we think about the life of a high school student, you have jobs and sports and clubs and home responsibilities, so by starting earlier you end earlier and have time for all of that. But if you think about it, if you get off at 2:30 and you don’t go to bed until 10, that’s 7 and a half hours to do whatever you need to. So, yes, a later start time would help with sleep, but if we look at managing our time, I think that could be helpful too.

Q: What problems/challenges would a later start time present?

A: I think the later start time would come into where kids have sports or jobs because if you start later, then you end later, and that means sports would have to be pushed back because we have coaches from other schools and things like that, and we also have to think about transportation. A really good thing about the earlier start time is that the students who drive aren’t in evening traffic.

Q: How would a later start time affect the school schedule?

A: I think we would still have a block schedule, you know, A-day B-day, it would just be timed differently; I don’t think that would impact anything schedule-wise.

Q: You mentioned you came from a school with a later start time as compared to Mehlville, so what was that like?

A: Right now my alarm goes off at 5:30 but I don’t get up until 6. At my former school, I had to be at work at 7:45, my alarm went off at 6:30 and I didn’t get up until 7:15. So I just got more sleep. I would still go to bed at the same time and I go to bed at 9:30, I just slept longer.

Q: As a counselor, have you noticed any trends or correlations among students that might be because of their lack of sleep?

A: Oh, yeah, absolutely. And it’s a balance, you know? As a person, you have a lot of responsibilities like your job, family, friends, health, and part of your health is sleeping. And you have to balance all of that because if one thing is taking more than another, something’s going to not be as strong, and neither is that balance. I think that a schedule is very important and if you make one and stick to it your life will be more balanced, but that’s hard to do a lot of the time, especially with high schoolers.

Q: Do you think if students were given a later start time and an opportunity to get more sleep it would improve their lives academically and personally?

A: Sure, as long as they’re balancing everything else and not going to bed even later because they can now get up later.