How Early is Too Early to Head to Class?

A mother wants schools to push back school start-times.

In October, Terra Snider posted an opinion piece on Severna Park Patch asking her neighbors to sign a petition to push back the time that students had to start school.

Citing information from National Sleep Foundation about adolescents, sleep and health, asking the Obama Administration to “promote legislation to prevent public schools from starting earlier than 8 a.m.” 

Snider emailed Ellicott City Patch because, she said, she received signatures from parents in this area. She has since started a new petition, and wanted to share the information with our readers.

Her original article appears  find an updated article, with a link to her most recent petition, . 

Tim November 17, 2011 at 04:18 PM
Suck it up! And stop complaining. She can home school her kid if she wants to start later.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. November 17, 2011 at 04:36 PM
Tim, I'm not doing this for my kids. Two of them are in their 20s, and my youngest will be done with high school before anything changes on this matter. I started this petition because, as both a mother and a medical writer, I'm very aware of the many studies linking extremely early high school hours (we're talking schools that start around 7 am and release kids as early as 2 pm) to a huge number of serious physical, emotional, and academic problems--as well as studies showing that starting school later in the morning is better for health, safety, and education (this youtube video says it all: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35jHiJ-5E1o ). The cost to communities of these absurdly early hours, which were instituted a few decades ago to save money on bus runs, are only now being grasped (and the cost is particularly high to disadvantaged kids). However, politics, money, and misunderstanding often make it impossible for local communities to make changes, even when they want to do so. The bottom line is that there is no legitimate reason for any public school to require instruction before 8 a.m. except to save money on buses, and there are more creative ways to do that. If you want to read the research backing up these claims, go to schoolstarttime.org--there's more there than you'll every want to know on the subject.
Steve November 17, 2011 at 06:15 PM
How bout the parents that have to work. If you move it back alot won't be able to get the kids off to school and get to work on time. How bout this. Have the kids go to bed at a decent time so they get enough sleep. And how bout high school sports? I guess sports aren't important to you but to alot of people they are. You would basically cut a hour out of practice everyday.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. November 17, 2011 at 06:38 PM
Those are important questions, Steve, but also, sadly, exactly the kind of reactions this issue inevitably gets whenever it gets raised--and why I think we need a sensible limit on how early schools start. Surely there is SOME time that is too early for school, no? The truth is that until about 30 years ago almost all high schools opened after 8:30 a.m., and most still do in most of the world. It makes you wonder why we're all so defensive about 7 am start times when they are hardly the norm--and there are now good studies (which I cited above) showing that when high schools start later, jobs, SPORTS, daycare, teacher training, etc., all adjust to accomodate school hours, and teens get more sleep, contrary to expectation. The Brookings Institution just issued a report showing that the later start times are not only desirable in terms of education and health, but also in terms of a community's longterm economic wellbeing. You can read the report at http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Files/rc/papers/2011/09_organize_jacob_rockoff/092011_organize_jacob_rockoff_paper.pdf . Ultimately, school hours should be set at times best for learning, health, and wellbeing of students. Everything else is secondary, but rest assured that when schools start after the sun rises, life as we know it continues.
Mary King November 17, 2011 at 11:21 PM
Incidently, in our large school district with a 7:17 am high school start time and a 3- tiered busing schedule, busses routinely drop high school kids at school about 6:50 am, roughly 30 minutes before the start of school to "fit" in all three bus runs. This may not seem absurd to many adults, but when you consider the teen biological clock, it is equivalent to an adult arriving at work at 3:50 am. I suspect not many adults would be at their best in such a situation. These kids have no choice in the matter.
Heather Macintosh November 18, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Tim, Steve, Let's make our kids' education the priority rather than all the other stuff. My 9th grader plays sports and has other after-school activities and I don't feel that pushing the school start time back by 40 minutes would be a disaster. We could either push sports back 40 minutes, or limit practice time to whatever works for families & kids. The after-school job might have to go - maybe high-schoolers can work on the weekend instead. Maybe they practice or do an activity before school if they choose. When kids are in elementary school, they don't start until 9:00 in our area - what do parents do about that when they have to work? They figure something out. Other things can shift around school. It can work.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. December 01, 2011 at 12:54 PM
The petition for later school start time just reached 1000 names! Our goal is to grow this to 5000 names, at which point we'll deliver the petition in person in DC. If you still haven't had a chance to sign and want to see sane, humane school hours, go to http://bit.ly/tWa4dS . Meanwhile, check out our growing national coalition of parents, teachers, students, health professionals, sleep scientists, etc. at StartSchoolLater.weebly.com
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 09, 2012 at 04:46 AM
We now have 2100+ names from all over the US on the petition to start school later (http://bit.ly/tWa4dS), as well as support from some of the country's leading sleep scientists and health professionals. Thanks to everyone who has supported this effort so far and to the Patch!
Jessica January 30, 2013 at 07:39 PM
Public schools are within the local jurisdiction not Federal/National, we really should not try to get the liberals to stick their hands in any more issues that should be local. I agree with a later start time for HS but I would also opt for an earlier one for ES so they have some outside play time after school before it gets dark. But don't make this into a Fed/National issue because it isn't.
Frances Keefe January 30, 2013 at 07:52 PM
The biggest problem is that State Legislatures continually reduce public school education budgets, and one of the first categories to get hit is usually transportation, resulting in 3-tiered busing systems, like we have in Pinellas County Florida. High schools start at 7:05am, and students are released at 1:50pm. Elementary schools start anywhere from 7:30am to 8:40am, and middle schools (for the most part) start at 9:30am!! And you're talking about parents having to deal with going to work and getting their kids to school? It's ridiculous, and the students are suffering because of it. However, no one at the State level wants to hear it, especially not now with state revenues down significantly. It's a sad state of affairs, and I really wish that they would put the students first, but I can't see that happening any time soon.
Mark Donovan February 19, 2013 at 11:12 PM
So far, our Howard County Start School Later petition has gotten 820 signers in just a week. Join us at: http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco


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