Speakout!

Your Opinions

December 11, 2005

Issue: -- Last week, The Sun asked Anne Arundel County readers whether county schools should push back the starting time for high school students or otherwise change hours. Here is a sampling of responses:

Sleep raises teens' quality of life

It's so sad that we have to spend so much energy and time re-debating this issue. There is no doubt in my mind that we should start our high schools at a later time. Both the research and my experience support this.

I can remember in my daughter's freshman year sharing the stories with other parents of our kids being totally exhausted and falling asleep over their homework. Many of us even had the kids tested to see if they had mononucleosis because they looked so bad and were so tired. I remember being very angry with the school system for creating an exhausted child who seemed to get upset over the littlest thing (again a common theme among my other parents).

And I don't even have to get into the debate about making your kids go to bed earlier because my daughter did and she was still always exhausted. Just ask the teachers about how much difference it makes in the kids' participation and energy level when school start time is delayed and they get more sleep.

Another memory is how happy my child was when she could sleep in - you would have thought she won the lottery. I believe the extra cost is well worth it because we will see more energized and attentive kids, better grades and test scores and probably even less tardiness and higher attendance rates.

Teri Bond Annapolis

Other factors must be considered

While the common sense notion that teenagers' natural sleep cycles are not compatible with early school start times is now supported by "sleep science" and academic performance data, the decision to push back the starting time for high school students cannot be made in a vacuum. Other school jurisdictions have spent years studying and debating this issue, only to come to the following conclusions: 1) the effects of school hours on student activities, athletics and work hours are major considerations that are important to many parents and students and for which there are no identified satisfactory solutions; and 2) transportation aspects of this issue are a potentially very expensive logistical nightmare that require technical and strategic expertise beyond what is currently available.

Frank Wise Severna Park

The best education is the primary goal

The real issue is whether starting high schools at 7:17 a.m. and ending them at 1:55 p.m. is ideal educationally, health-wise and safety-wise for our students. If you agree that it is not the best choice, then logically a change is necessary.

The article on Nov. 27 states, "board members have said they need to consider the effects on after-school activities." What is the primary purpose of our schools? Is it to provide cheap labor in the afternoon for businesses and facilitate after-school sports and activities? No, the job of the schools is to educate. Given that priority, the board of education needs to commit to making a change that will allow the schools to do the best job possible.

Mary King Millersville

Rested students may improve in class

Having recently moved to the area, I was appalled to learn that high schools start at 7:17 a.m. and dismiss at 1:55 p.m.

Have we gone mad? We are aware of the sleep requirements of pre-pubescents and adolescents, not only for the number of hours of sleep, but that their bio-rhythms shift to a later bed time and later wake-up time. Yet we require them to wake at an ungodly hour, particularly those who have a longer bus ride. Is it any wonder that we are seeing an increasing number of children who are irritable, wired and unable to concentrate in class?

I submit that instead of deciding that they have ADHD and medicating them, let's allow them to at least have a chance to get adequate sleep. (In addition to being better behaved in class, children who aren't sleep-deprived are less likely to be overweight, but that's for another letter.)

A school starting time of 8:45 a.m. with dismissal at 3:15 p.m. is not only reasonable, but civilized. It is the role of school bus schedulers, sports team schedulers, parents, administrators and teachers to support the students in their quest to be well-rested, alert, productive young people, not the other way around.

Mary Mansfield Annapolis

Parents should send kids to bed earlier

I have a daughter who is a middle schooler and a son who is a junior in high school. Both of them go to bed at 8:30 p.m. and always have. I believe that teenagers need more sleep because of their changing bodies. Parents should try and get their teens to bed earlier, I know it is hard to do, but, we are their parents.

Melissa Wilson Glen Burnie

More sleep could reduce teens' stress

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