A Possibility to Snooze? Ridge Interested in Adopting a Later Start Time


Art Credits to Maggie Hsu!

Varsha Bhargava ‘23

Brrrrrring, Brrrrrrrrring, Brrrrrring… a student’s phone vibrates and shouts at them, screaming for attention. They swat at the phone, performing the simple action of swiping the snooze button across the screen- a practiced motion. It’s 6:00 AM, way too early for them to wake up, not after just six hours of sleep. The student dozes off again, only to be woken up by his/her mother’s shouting from downstairs. It’s 6:35 AM, and they need to leave in ten minutes to beat the worst of the traffic. Just as expected, there is bumper to bumper traffic; a line of cars is inching its way down the road, the passengers reeking of tardiness. The student sprints across Cedar Hill Elementary School’s parking lot, tears through Ridge’s hallways, rampages up the stairs, and barely makes it through the doorway of their first period class before the bell rings at 7:35 AM. Throughout their first periods of school, the student is groggy and half-awake, wondering why school could not have started just a couple hours later.


The Bernards Township Board of Education has been looking into the proposition of a later school start time. Meetings with the Board of Education and Committees regarding this proposal will take place in late 2020. Once processed, the schedule adjustment will be put into action in the 2021-2022 school year (which corresponds to junior year for this year’s freshmen and senior year for the current sophomores).


There are mixed opinions from the students of Ridge regarding this proposed development. On one hand, students argue that waking up later in the mornings can grant students a much-needed extra hour of sleep. 


When asked of her opinion at 7:20 AM, Yejin Lee ‘23 responded to this statement saying, “I would get more sleep time and wouldn’t be tired in the mornings,” proceeding to mock fall asleep, she added that she was “too tired to give an adequate response [at the moment]”. To build upon Lee’s point, Sherice Kong ‘23 noted that teenage brains do not function properly until later on in the day. This brings up another worry: how awake are students during the first few periods of school? 


A concerning element of today’s school start times is that teenagers are physically unable to function at such an early time, as their brains should not allow it. The timing of production and secretion of melatonin in teenagers is something that should be considered as a factor in the decision for start times. Melatonin is a secretion in the brain that tells the body when to sleep at night and when to stay asleep in the morning. Teenage melatonin starts being secreted at around 10:45 PM, and doesn’t stop until around 8:00 AM in the morning. Many students rightfully report feeling tired or mentally absent during the beginning of the school day, which starts at 7:35 AM — well before the optimal time.


“Right now, [the start time] is so early that when I wake up for school, I’m too tired to focus. But with more rest, I will be able to function like a proper human,” Diya Jain ‘23 answers. Many other Ridge students agreed, relaying that focusing during classes is difficult when their brain is still caught up on wanting to sleep. 


With a later start time, a majority of this morning drowsiness would vanish, thus allowing students to enter morning classes with a clear head. 


Due to the secretion of melatonin, teenagers also fall asleep later than younger children, so it would naturally be harder for teenagers to wake up early in the morning.


Emma Lothrop ‘21 correctly brings up that high schoolers cannot fall asleep as early as younger children, such as elementary school students. Jason Lee ‘23 and Will Sherman ‘23 agree with Lothrop, Sherman even suggests that Ridge should switch to the start time of elementary schools in the district, such as Cedar Hill Elementary School, which starts at 8:30, almost an hour later than Ridge’s current start time. Although, this could cause a traffic issue, which would be a problem for the Board of Education to address.


Another benefit of a later school start time would be the effect on before-school meetings and activities. 


If a student needs to retake a test, and the only time the teacher and the student could meet is before school, they would have to allot at least forty minutes- an entire class period- of time for the student to get a fair amount of time to complete the test. This would require students to wake up very early in order to get to school with ample time before 7:35 AM. This particular situation happened recently with two students: Emma Lothrop ‘21 and Dilan Patel ‘21. Both juniors had to retake a physics test before school, meaning that they had to arrive by 6:40 AM. This retake test would be very difficult, along with the day ahead of it, not only because of the subject material, but because of the time set for it. During this time, before-school tests like these would be hindered by the brain functionality at that time. Additionally, waking up that early and losing that much more sleep would affect the rest of the day ahead for the students. 


A later start time would eliminate some of these problems. Since the start time would be later, so would the before-school time, which means that these students would not have to endure the drowsy retake assessments and longing for sleep throughout the day.


Extracurricular activities, such as marching band, after school activities, and sports would also be affected by the shifted schedule, causing concern, but also bright spots, for many of the members.


The shifted schedule would bring about positives, such as time to catch up on sleep after missing it in the hours studying after activities. Anusha Gupta ‘23 enthusiastically agrees with shifting the start time, saying that “soccer takes up most of my evening, so I don’t have time to do homework, which causes me to stay up late at night and it is hard to wake up in the morning… often times I don’t have enough time to eat breakfast”. A later start time could remedy these issues; students participating in sports can catch up on sleep in the morning, but also they will have more time to eat breakfast, and possibly catch up on homework missed from the night before, because of practices. Although, there would be downsides to this change, practices would be shifted later, as well, which cuts into homework and study time, even more. And there is only so much light and time in the day for sports teams to practice, they would be losing an hour of practice time, if school started, and consequently ended, an hour later. Margaret Pinto ‘23 brings up that the reduced practice time could affect their performance in games. The phrase “practice makes perfect” is a cliche, but it is quite true, especially in this circumstance. Players would have to sacrifice their practice time for their sleep. But Esha Tripathi ‘21 points out that, “extracurriculars [would] take the same amount of time as usual, [so students] would get the same amount of sleep,” in other words, everything would just balance out, in terms of amount of sleep gained by students, or lack thereof.


There are also students who think making a change in the school start time would just create a disruption in students’ lives. The wake-up routine has already been ingrained in students’ brains, so there would not be anything for students to compare it to. A change in schedule would just disrupt the whole sleeping schedule and system for students’ lives. Some students even suggest an earlier start time, as opposed to a later one. Sam Deane ‘23 points out that with an earlier start time, there would be more time to study, hang out with friends, and participate in activities after school, while on the other hand, a later school time would diminish these opportunities. 


To conclude, Ridge’s investigation into the prospect of a later school start time has been validated by students, but it has also been rejected by students. The majority of students agree that the extra time for sleep in the morning would be beneficial, but there are doubtful students who do not agree. When the time comes for a change to be made, either chaos or peace could prevail, but it all has to start with those upcoming meetings about later school start times.


[1] https://www.state.nj.us/education/students/safety/health/StartTimes.pdf

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11148930/Teenagers-to-start-school-at-10am-in-Oxford-University-sleep-experiment.html

[3] https://www.salon.com/2017/09/14/sleepy-teenage-brains-need-school-to-start-later-in-the-morning_partner/