The greatest advantage to starting school early in the day is an earlier release. Schools are required to hold 180 days of school. Once holidays and vacations are crossed off the calendar, this usually means a minimum of five hours of instruction each day with one hour for lunch. Starting earlier in the morning means ending earlier in the afternoon, leaving more time for after-school activities, jobs, homework or other responsibilities. For part of the school year, this also means students have more time after school to pursue such activities in daylight.
The earlier students are dismissed from school, the more time they have to participate in after-school programs and activities. Sports teams can hold practice or games in daylight. Art, drama, school newspaper and other extracurricular clubs can meet. After-school programs can provide children with valuable academic, social and professional experiences after school gets out but before parents get home, Jodi Grant, executive director of the nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, explains in a December 2011 "Washington Post" article "Why Strong Afterschool Programs Matter."
Many students take on after school jobs at a certain age. Some do so voluntarily, some because their parents want to teach them responsibility and others because they need to generate extra income for the family. Mike Fritz of PBS explains that jobs can help students build reliability, stay on track to graduate and recognize the benefits of even a small degree of financial independence. When school starts earlier and releases earlier, more hours are left in the afternoon and evening to work. When school ends later, many students do not have an opportunity to work, which can deprive their families of the extra income they need.
Completing homework is a burden for many children, especially after a long school day. The later students finish school, the less time they have to do homework and the sooner they begin to feel tired. An earlier release offers many children a chance to relax or take a break before beginning their homework assignments. It also gives them more choices of how to use their time. For instance, children may choose to complete their homework immediately after school so they have more time to do things they want to do, such as play with friends, go outside or watch a favorite television show. An early dismissal from school presents students with an opportunity to learn how to prioritize and manage their time effectively.
Some children have responsibilities in addition to homework, jobs and extracurricular activities. They might have household chores or family members to care for. Getting out of school earlier in the day presents families with more options in the afternoon. Parents who would otherwise have to pay for child care may be able to use an older sibling to watch a younger one for a few hours in the afternoon. Parents who need help around the house can delegate some tasks to children, such as cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming or walking the dog.
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