We’ve been back in school for a month. As fall rolls in, so does the sleep deprived stupor that many of our public school students face as they grapple with early school start times.
At Start School Later, we are dedicated to letting the general public know about the need to establish healthy school start times that do not conflict with the biological needs of students. We’ve met with legislators, public officials, community members, parents and anyone else that will listen to our message.
Ironically, a 7:17am start time does not seem to resonate with most folks that do not have high schoolers. The impression is that this is the time students WAKE UP for school. It doesn’t seem so bad to wake up in the seven o’clock hour, since most adults do it.
Our kids need to wake up at 5:30am or 6:00am to get ready and be AT school by 7:17am. This is the eye-opener that most people do not understand about this problem.
Most students get more sleep by sacrificing breakfast, passing up a shower or getting a ride instead of walking or catching a bus. (They can’t go to bed earlier if they are getting home from sports events later than 9:00pm with homework waiting to be done).
As a sophisticated industrialized nation, we are sacrificing the basic needs of children to save a fast buck and maintain a system we are loathe to change. What about the students that don’t have access to a car? What about the students that have no choice but to walk to school in the dark, sometimes on busy, dark streets with no sidewalk and lots of traffic?
Most adults would not choose to stand outside on a pre-dawn corner to get a ride to work. Yet, we ride by in our cozy cars and vans, passing many of our children who have to “report to work” earlier than most adults.
Somehow, we can jump through hoops when schools mandate early dismissals or sports schedules change, but we are not willing to consider collaborating in our communities for the long-term health, safety and equity of all of our public school students.
Hold on, there’s more. Our magnet students face an even larger burden. Because most of them are going to schools outside of their normal jurisdiction, they face longer bus rides. And, ironically, instead of magnet programs starting on a different schedule, they start at 7:17am, forcing students to get to a centralized bus stop (which might require a longer walk, prior bus trip or car ride) even EARLIER than their mainstream counterparts.
The #727 and #747 Bus makes its first stop at 6:00am in order to service students that are in the Performing and Visual Arts High School program. Bus #543 starts at 5:45am in order to service West County. Bus #144, which serves the South County High STEM students, starts at 6:15am. Bus #130 starts at 6:10am.
So, if you are a motivated individual excelling in school, you have to get there even earlier and travel farther than your sleepy “regular” contemporaries. No good deed goes unpunished.
Here’s the other kicker. More economically advantaged students would just go to a private school or other specialty school outside of the public school system to hone their skills or prepare for their career.
Many of our public school magnet students are coming from economically disadvantaged locations. They don’t have their own cars and may have to walk a mile to get to the bus stop. Their parents are most likely to both have to work, leaving the student to fend for themselves without a convenient ride to school. Is this the message that we want to send to our motivated students that want to excel? That to work hard and perform well, you have to endure an even more demandingly sleepless schedule than your peers?
There is something severely broken in this system, when we continue to turn a blind eye to the basic health and safety needs of our youth and couch them as “character building” for when they “grow up”. Let’s open our eyes and wake up to what we are really asking our youth to do.
Chime in below and tell us of your early morning sojourns. How do the students in your family get to school? Let’s get the conversation started, so we can get our heads out of the sand and start getting real.
Maribel Ibrahim, The Frugal Writer, created www.StartSchoolLater.net and is a Co-Founder of Start School Later, Inc. a grassroots coalition dedicated to ensuring that the health, safety and equity of children are protected when determining school start times. Maribel’s Patch blog has recently been ranked in the Top 100 out of over 22,000 bloggers in the Patch network.