Dear Editor:

6:00 – 6:30 am might not sound too early to some.  In fact, my dad wakes up at 5:00 in the morning to get to his job.  However, when he comes home some time between 6:30 and 9:00 pm, he doesn’t usually have additional work for his job, meaning that his work day is shorter than that of a student.  This is because of the one to seven hours of homework a kid in my classes has a night!  When one takes into account the time-consuming extracurriculars (soccer, dance, flute, crew, etc, etc) that my fellow peers and I partake in – in addition to a lot of homework – middle and high school students get to be very late.  Most kids end up coming to school very sleep-deprived, in fact.

Now consider that the amount of hours of sleep a fourteen-year-old is supposed to get is around ten hours a night.  Middle and high schools start at 7:50 am in the Seattle Public School District!  If one woke up at 7:20, which is when my yellow bus comes in the morning, then they would have to go to bed at 9:20pm to get ten hours of sleep!  The fact that a student would either “go to bed at 9:20 or wake up at 7:20”, however is quite “unrealistic” according to Conor Gormally of Washington Middle School.

This is why I propose that school starts at least an hour later than it currently does.  An hour of sleep would make a work of difference in a student’s attitude toward school and grades would definitely rise.  Most importantly, however, kids would be more well-rested and therefore healthier.

Hannah Farrell
8th Grader at Washington Middle School
Seattle, WA

4 thoughts on “Should Schools Start Later? Letter to the Editor from Hannah Farrell, 8th Grader at Washington Middle School in Seattle”
  1. Hannah, thanks for writing this! You are absolutely right, and as more and more evidence comes in about this issue, it’s unacceptable to keep starting schools at the hours we do throughout most of the US. The problem, however, is that knowing something is wrong and trying to change it are two different things. As both a medical writer and a mother of 3 (only one of whom is still in high school), I’ve been fighting this battle for over a decade in my school system. Over time,I’ve come to understand that in my community and many others all over the country, politics & myths inevitably win out over the best interests of the kids. That’s why I created a national petition to push for a minimum earliest start time, which would make it easier for local schools to do the right thing when they set their particular schedules. Although local schools need to set their specific hours, this isn’t just an educational issue–it’s also a matter of safety, health, and equity that’s going to take collective action on a national scale to resolve. To add your name to our petition (which at the very least should help raise national awareness about this issue), go to tinyurl.com/82leprp. We’ll be hand delivering this petition to Washington state legislators in DC on April 18, in fact! For more information about our growing national coalition see StartSchoolLater.net . Meanwhile, best of luck in your efforts!

  2. Hannah – I really appreciate your letter (next time please send email so I don’t have to re-type) and viewpoint.

    At the same time, I don’t see how starting school any later is going to give you more time … My advice is to use this as an opportunity to get really good at making priorities.

    While it may not be an issue for you, many of your peers are not as active in all the ‘extracurriculars’, but spend a horrid amount of time watching tv and playing video games. In my eyes those are wastes of time that are a much bigger problem than the time that school starts.

  3. Thank you Hannah for your Letter to the Editor. You are a role model for the rest of the teens. I think that kids, like adults, don’t realize they are sleep deprived and how detrimental this is their health, learning and safety. If more teens would speak out, like you did, to increase awareness and even demand change, we could change this. Parents in the Northshore school district are trying to change the high schools to later start times. Woodinville H.S. starts at 7:10, and to ride the bus, teens get up at 5:30. One thing I would like parents and teens to know is that college admissions is 80% academic (GPA), and yet our early start times are dictated by sports and extracurricular activities.

  4. In response to Joe “The Connector” Kennedy’s comment that later start times will not give kids more time and to better prioritize. It is important to consider that teens undergo a shift in their sleep-wake cycle, due to a later release of melatonin. Instead of peaking a 4 am as in adults, it peaks at 7 am in teens. Thus, putting a teen in the classroom at 7 am is equivalent to 4 am for an adult. This shift is why many teens find it hard to sleep before 11 pm. The extent of this hormonal shift is not the same for every teen, some will adapt, but others cannot, so unfortunately, better prioritizing will not make teens sleep earlier. Please read http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/hot-topics/backgrounder-later-school-start-times.

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