The Benefits of a Later Start to the School Day

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Teresa Collins, Contributor

Are there benefits to a later start of a student’s school day? Later school days would affect not only students and some parents, but all staff associated with the school as well. They would be affected in different ways. Some things that could be affected by this change are amount of sleep, transportation and outcomes with academic achievement. School days should start later because it would be beneficial for students. 

If schools started later, one way students would benefit is by getting more sleep. According to, on average, teenagers get between 7 and 7 ¼ hours of sleep, which is approximately two hours less than they need. As a teenager, I know some people who go to bed late, sometimes at 12 a.m. or as late as 2 or 3 a.m., and as a result they don’t always get the sleep they need. According to UCLA Health, after puberty, teenager’s sleep schedules shift by a couple hours. Lack of sleep not only affects someone’s mood, but is also shown to affect their behavior, cognitive ability and academic performance. Furthermore, the lack of sleep causes teenagers to take more risks, like drinking and driving. While driving, they can also fall asleep or make bad decisions because their cognitive abilities are not at the right level for that task. In fact, one of the times drowsy driving occurs the most is mid-afternoon, between 3 and 4 o’clock, around the time schools get out. Later school days would allow for better mood, more sleep, less risky behavior and less drowsy driving.

Cognitive ability affects how you do in school, so if you’re tired, you won’t do as well. Academic performance is typically affected more poorly the less sleep you get, and therefore grades are lower. According to Kappan, when researching a school who changed their school to a later start time, they found that the students reported less depression, and the principal reported fewer disciplinary incidents both in the halls and in the lunchroom. Also, Everyday Health did a study with 92 sophomores who started school at 7:50 and 88 sophomores who started school at 8:45, almost a whole hour later. The study showed that the second group got an average of 34 minutes more sleep, and their grades were 4.5 percent higher. Another thing to note is that the number of tardies and first period absences decreased. Based on these two studies, one conclusion we can make is that not only would a later start be beneficial for getting more sleep, but it would increase grades and attendance as well.

Some people would argue that starting the school day later would cause transportation issues. However, the solution to this is obvious, although it would come with a cost. Schools may need more buses or another form of transportation for students that rely on their parents to drive them to school. According to Gregory Poole, new buses can cost between $90,000 and $290,000 and used buses can cost between $3,000 and $10,000. This is a lot of money, but worth it if we can help our students do better across the school.

In my personal experience, a later start is a positive thing. I attended Bellows Free Academy in my freshman year, and South Burlington High School in my sophomore year. Bellows Free Academy starts their school day at 7:30, whereas South Burlington starts a little over an hour later at 8:40. However, while they start later, they also go later as well, ending their day at 3:15. My grades didn’t increase much personally. They increased, by South Burlington’s grading style, about 0.5% on average with an average of 94.5% in my freshman year and 95% in my sophomore year.  However, I was able to get more sleep, and that did increase my focus, and overall I was not as tired and had a better mood. One consideration, when looking at my grade difference and mood change, is that this was before and during COVID-19, so that definitely affected my performance and attitude in school. With that in mind, it is still a good example of the change because COVID-19 made it more difficult to raise my grades even that little bit.

Students can benefit in many ways from a later start of the school day. First, sleep is affected positively because when you start later, you get more sleep and a lot of factors are affected by sleep and the amount you get. Second, academic achievement and cognitive ability are also affected positively because, again, when you get more sleep, you are likely to have better focus and attention, which would result in better grades.  A later start to the school day would be helpful to students in various ways.