School days beginning after 8 a.m. have many benefits for students, especially those in middle and high school, according to Psychology Today. These benefits include better academic performance, fewer absences and even improved health. However, early start times do have some advantages that may be worth considering. Students who begin earlier have more time for after-school jobs and activities; schools may benefit by saving some money; and parents might find that an early start works better with their schedules.
While studies show there are academic advantages to later start times for adolescents, schools that begin early in the day still can excel academically. According to an article in the Baltimore Post-Examiner, Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland has 30 high schools, and the three ranked highest by U.S. News and World Report for college readiness and algebra and English proficiency all begin classes at 7:25 a.m. Starting the day early also means more time for after-school tutoring and that student-athletes miss fewer classes to travel to after-school competitions.
More Time for Activities
A 2001 study showed that school administrators cited extracurricular activities as a major reason why high school campuses would rather start earlier in the day. Sports needing to practice outdoors have more daylight, and students walking home from these activities can take advantage of the extra daylight for their safety. In some cases, students may need to travel, and an early start and release may mean more time in the evening for homework and family. High school students also have more time for after-school jobs.
Schools may also be able to save up to 30 percent on transportation costs by starting some campuses early and staggering start times within the district. This method saves money by allowing drivers to run more than one route at a time, so fewer buses and drivers are needed. Lubbock ISD in Texas is anticipating saving more than 1 million dollars by utilizing start times prior to 8 a.m. at some campuses. Suffolk Public Schools in Virginia estimates that by starting some campuses at 7:25 a.m. they will be able to save around $680,000 a year. This schedule also means shorter bus rides for students and less time sitting in traffic.
Better for Parent Schedules
There are specific advantages for parents if younger grades have early start times. Starting school early may eliminate the need for morning childcare if parents are able to drop off their kids before work. They may drop them off at a center that buses them to their campus later in the morning. After school, the daycare picks up the students and parents retrieve their children in the evening from the center. This is necessary for some parents to have time to travel to work, especially if they have a longer commute.
- Psychology Today: Do Later School Start Times Really Help High School Students?
- Baltimore Post-Examiner: Do Schools Really Need to Start Early? How About Parenting 101 Classes Instead?
- Lubbock Online: LISD Seeks to Cut Transportation Costs by Staggering Start Times
- Suffolk Public Schools: Staggered Bell Schedules for Transportation Efficiency
- The Hamilton Project: Organizing Schools to Improve Student Achievement -- Start Times, Grade Configurations and Teacher Assignments
- U.S. News and World Report: Montgomery County Public Schools
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