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Letter: Edsel Ford Student Gives Teen Perspective on School Start Times

Should Dearborn Schools change their start times?

It’s a Monday morning. It’s dark outside, and your head is throbbing, but you force your melted eyes open to start getting prepared for the day and think to yourself, “why do I have to attend school so early?”

More: Late start option to be offered in Dearborn Schools for 2013-14

Last spring, the school administration offered to have our high school start time moved up, but at the expense of not offering transportation for 30 percent of students who ride the buses, 27 percent of students who play sports, and 9 percent of DCMST students.

For yet another year, we are left to deal with the consequences of starting school so early. Students are putting their heads down on the desks, dozing off, and not focusing on the lessons. This is not entirely due to waking up early in the morning, but it is a major factor that the failed plan could have easily eliminated.

 Some people argue that going to bed early, reading a chapter of a book, and eating a healthy breakfast are all you need to wake up feeling refreshed and alive. The issue—for teenagers, anyway—is much more complicated than that.

According to the research done at Brown Univeristy by Mary Carskadon, for students between the ages 11 to 22, the brain chemical melatonin is distributed to the body at 11 p.m. and ends at 8 a.m. This means that unless students are going to sleep by 9 p.m., they will miss an entire cycle of rapid eye movement and remain sleepy all morning as a result.

Dr. Charles Czeiler, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, says that when students don’t get an adequate amount of sleep, the sleep deprivation accumulates, and within a week, that deficiency is equivalent to being awake for 24 hours. He says that the deficiency also has the same impact as being legally drunk in terms of reaction time and other measures of performance.

  Helena Thornton, a DHS parent and Edsel graduate, said, “I'm concerned about the fact that the data shows that the students are missing an entire REM sleep cycle with an average of seven hours sleep when studies show they need nine, and how sleep deprivation builds up over the week and has been shown to measurably affect performance comparable to being under the influence of substances.”

Recently, Ms. Thornton asked me to conduct a survey with students from our school about their sleep patterns. In my sample of 42 students from grades nine to twelve, the average amount of sleep that students get is 7.17 hours. Compared to the nine hours that we are supposed to get, the results are quite alarming.

I was also asked to survey them about their opinions on changing the school start time from 7:20 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. Only forty percent of them said yes. The others argued that they would like to be able to wake up a later time, but if it means that they have to stay after 2:15 p.m., then they would rather just wake up earlier and “get it over with.”

This careless attitude towards our learning is dangerous. Instead of thinking about which start-time plan gets us out of school the earliest, we should be supporting a plan that will make our learning experience as productive as possible. We are going to be in school for the same amount of time anyway, so we might as well make the best use of it.  Any parent, student or community member who understands and supports this issue is asked to join in our communication to Dearborn Public Schools by signing the following petition:  http://signon.org/sign/dearborn-public-schools?source=c.em.mt&r_by=5890917

AbuHak February 19, 2013 at 06:59 PM
One of the main problems in Dearborn is the number of minors working past 10:00 pm on weekdays. Starting school later will encourage these students and their law breaking employers to work them well past midnight, if they are not already doing it. It also doesn't help to have some school sport practices at 8:00 pm. If school is started one hour later, most students will just stay up an additional hour instead of using the time to sleep.
Nickel February 20, 2013 at 02:01 AM
Amazing how many students do succeed with a starting time of 7:20. The district needs to quit cow towing to the minority of people that want a later start. Even if the district made it a 9 am start, there will still be many who say that is too early. Wait until these students get a job and or family and their sleep will be less than 7 hours. I am amazed at many middle school students walking to school at 7:15 in the morning, yet we have high school students whining they need more sleep. Can't get to bed earlier, they just want to sleep later. Again, I cannot reiterate it enough, the majority of students are VERY SUCCESSFUL with the starting time that is in place now. Save money Dearborn Schools, quit re-examining this issue and close it now.
kooshetty February 25, 2013 at 01:34 PM
cow towing?
Ben Bachrach March 14, 2013 at 12:02 PM
If there were a significant number of students/parents who want a late start time, there would be private schools with that option. Why not try noon to 6:00pm, have the students eat lunch before they come to school. Maybe not having lunch at school would reduce school costs.

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