Time for a Compromise

The time was 7:20 AM, five minutes before Coginchaug’s late bell would ring. As the stop sign came into view, so did two stationary cars, holding up traffic. Upon closer inspection, it was evident there had been an accident. This isn’t a fictitious story made up for the purpose of making this article engaging. This actually happened, right on the corner of Brick and Maiden Lane. Accidents do happen, but interestingly enough, these two cars, containing student drivers, were not what one can consider “early”. No one was injured: a smashed fender was the only damage. While that may seem trivial in nature, today it is smashed fenders, but tomorrow it will be totaled cars or even worse. Day after day, an increasingly long line of cars can be viewed at the school-front mere minutes before the first class. Day after day, students are consistently on the brink of being late to school. Would beginning the school day at a later hour provide an effective solution to these issues or do the long-term benefits of starting school at the current time outweigh the temporary inconvenience presently caused to students?

One can argue that delaying the school start time would be immensely beneficial for students’ health, well-being, and safety; primarily considering that the pandemic has negatively affected many people’s mental health. All students, especially those taking rigorous courses, are aware of the overwhelming amount of homework assigned on a regular basis that requires them to stay up late to complete. Additionally, many students have other responsibilities after school including extracurriculars, sports practices, and part-time jobs. This, combined with the extremely early school start time of 7:25, makes it very challenging for students to get the recommended eight to ten hours of sleep per night. Coginchaug freshman, Annika Liss, mentioned, “I think the school start time would be much better if it were a half hour later. Students could get more sleep while still having extracurriculars end at a reasonable time.” 

Furthermore, modifying the time that school begins could also have a positive effect on academics; when students get the necessary sleep to perform at their best, they will be more successful in the classes and activities they partake in. Christine Waterman, a junior, commented that there are “countless studies that show how teens’ brains are wired to not be as good at functioning so early in the morning.” 

It is also important to note that the current start time cultivates poor habits of oversleeping, rushing, and reckless driving. These behaviors impair judgment and concentration, increasing the likelihood that drivers will become involved in car accidents. Eventually, the repetition of these actions could lead to unhealthy or dangerous situations that could potentially put society’s fate in jeopardy. This risk could be significantly reduced by instituting a school start time that allows students to get an adequate amount of sleep and have an ample opportunity to manage their time in the morning effectively. 

Contrastingly, one could claim that it is in the school’s best interest to maintain the current school start time, as a delayed opening would consequently lead to a later release time. This may be problematic for both students who have afterschool commitments, as well as teachers with personal responsibilities because it would impact the timing of such activities. Waterman also explained, “I feel that a shift to a later start time would result in after school activities being pushed later and would just shift everything to later. We’d still be getting the same amount of sleep, just at a shifted time of day.”

Moreover, the argument arises that being accustomed to arriving at school early in the morning will serve students well later in life. As students enter the workforce, they are expected to arrive punctually to jobs that begin in the early morning hours. School is designed to prepare students for their future lives, and this is just one of the numerous ways they attempt to do so. This raises questions regarding the effectiveness in the long run of a delayed start. Although students are inconvenienced now, a later start time could create poor habits that students will find difficult to subdue and have the paramount consequence of impeding their overall success decades after they have received their Coginchaug diploma. 

However, this argument is not one-sided; English teacher Ms. Rebecca Suchy acknowledged, “I can see both sides in terms of the benefits of our ‘clocks’ not really being ‘set’ for these early wake-ups, but I also do think having a full afternoon ahead of you by ending at [the current release time] is beneficial and leaves time for many after-school activities.” 

It is true that an extreme change of delaying the daily school start time may not be necessary as it could impact after school commitments; there are many alternative solutions. Visual arts teacher Mr. Ryan Bothamley pointed out, “Last year [due to cleaning] we had an early release on Wednesdays. What if the start of school was a delayed opening on Wednesdays so students could sleep in and teachers could have their meetings and [prepare their lessons]? This might be a good fit for all of us and our after school schedules.”

Ultimately, at the root of the issue are the short term compared to the long term effects. A dangerous car crash that could have been simply prevented by a later school start time makes compromised hours for an after school job seem trivial. Similarly, the formation of habits that have the possibility to impair success makes waking up early seem like less of a burden. There is compelling evidence in favor of and against a later school start time, making it difficult to pinpoint an ideal solution. It is evident that a compromise is necessary in order to address the countless valid concerns this issue presents in our daily lives.