Board discusses change in start times

The+school+board+will+discuss+the+school+time+changes+and+vote+on+an+decision+March+23+2022.

The school board will discuss the school time changes and vote on an decision March 23 2022.

Mia Behringer

On Wednesday night the Washington Township school board discussed the pros and cons of the high school switching start times with elementary schools. Elementary school students have a start time of 8:30 a.m. and a dismissal time of 3:30 p.m.. NC begins school at 7:20 a.m. and gets out at 2:35 p.m.. If the proposed time switch is approved by the school board then high school students would get almost an entire extra hour in the morning and will stay less than an hour later than usual. 

The first thing that comes to mind for many parents of Washington Township students is how this would affect the younger students. Should a seven year old be getting up at 6 a.m. to catch a bus in the dark? Is it safe for them to get up at this time and wait for the bus before the sun even rises? It is still dark outside for many months of the year even at 7 a.m.. 

Research has shown that it is not as big of a problem for elementary school age kids to wake up early, then it is for high schoolers. They are naturally more equipped for early rising and many have earlier bedtimes anyways. High schoolers struggle to wake up early and they are more apt to stay up later in the night. 

High schoolers generally have more after school commitments that make it hard to get an early bedtime. Sports, jobs, homework, clubs and even childcare for younger students keeps them up later. They may need that extra hour of sleep in order to be productive during the school day and to have enough energy to continue participating in extracurricular activities. The feeling of waking up an hour later is very profound when it comes to doing it every single day. It can significantly impact a student’s productivity and well-being. 

There are some downsides to the switch. If elementary school gets out at 2:30, then parents will have to be ready to have after school childcare ready earlier than usual. High schoolers can drive home or take the bus home safely. They can deal with being home alone for a number of hours until their parents get home. Elementary school students are considerably too young to be alone at home. Five year olds should not be getting off at a bus stop and walking home alone to an empty house everyday.

Some parents will not have the option to change their work schedule to pick up their kids from school or to meet them at the bus stop. They may not have the money to pay for someone else to do it. Being a public school system, WTS caters to many lower-income families who would have to adapt to whatever the school system decides because they can not afford to send their children to private schools or public schools that they would have to drive them to. These families need to be kept in mind when the decision is made.

The fact that high schoolers have after school commitments may also be a con of starting later. That means that they will have one less hour to work, practice will start and end an hour later, away games for school sports will end even later than they already do. Many students have to care for younger siblings after school as well. With the current schedule they will get home before the other schools do, meaning they can care for the younger students when they come home from school an hour or two later.

The decision will impact almost every WTS family and the school board needs to weigh the pros and cons extensively before finalizing such an impactful change.