The Norwalk Board of Education recently voted to change the high school start time to 8:30 at the recommendations of the School Start Time Committee and local pediatricians. To accommodate this change, it is also modifying some elementary start times by 10-15 minutes earlier or later, depending on the school. The Committee worked for more than a year and compiled a 200+ page report outlining the many benefits and citing numerous scientific studies in support of it.
Benefits of high school starting at 8:30 or later include reductions in absenteeism and tardiness, reduced stress and anxiety among teenagers, lower drop out rates, better test scores, narrowing of the achievement gap, fewer traffic accidents and lower crime rates. The latter points show that it is not only the teenagers that benefit, but the entire community as well.
Opponents to this change have been very vocal and have expressed frustration that this change will have a negative impact on their family schedule, which is understandable, but it is no different than adjustments parents have already made when their children started a new school, whether elementary, middle or high school. Families have always had to make their personal schedules fit around school, not the other way around. What many fail to acknowledge, however, is that a lot of families will be positively impacted by this change. No one’s personal convenience should be prioritized over another and the Board cannot make decisions based on individual circumstances. It must consider the overall impact to the community at large, and specifically to the students themselves. Unfortunately, no school schedule will be a perfect fit for every family, that’s part of living in a society.
The Board voted to change the high school start time because decades of research prove teenagers function better when they’re allowed to sleep later. I, for one, am extremely thankful that it chose to put the needs of the children ahead of the convenience of a few.