The debate around school start times has intensified in recent years, with many parents, teachers, and health experts arguing that starting the school day later would benefit students. But there are also arguments against shifting school schedules.

Here’s a quick answer: While starting school later has several benefits like improved academic performance and better health outcomes for teens, it also comes with challenges like scheduling sports and extracurriculars.

In this comprehensive article, we will analyze the key arguments on both sides of the later school start time debate. We will look at the research around the health and academic impacts of sleep deprivation in teens when school starts early.

We will also consider counterarguments around logistical challenges and cost.

The Benefits of Starting School Later

Improves Academic Performance

One of the major benefits of starting school later is that it can significantly improve academic performance. Research conducted by the National Sleep Foundation has shown that teenagers who get enough sleep perform better in school.

When students are well-rested, they are more alert, focused, and able to retain information more effectively. This leads to improved test scores, better grades, and overall academic success.

Allows Teens to Get More Sleep

Starting school later allows teenagers to get the recommended amount of sleep they need to function optimally. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teenagers should aim for 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

However, due to early school start times, many teenagers are not able to get enough sleep. By starting school later, teens have the opportunity to get the sleep they need, which can have a positive impact on their physical and mental well-being.

Reduces Absenteeism

Starting school later has been shown to reduce absenteeism rates among teenagers. Lack of sleep has been linked to a variety of health issues, including weakened immune systems. By allowing teenagers to start school later and get enough sleep, their overall health is improved, resulting in fewer sick days and decreased absences.

This benefits not only the individual student but also the entire school community.

Lowers Risk of Depression and Mental Health Issues

Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining good mental health. Lack of sleep has been associated with an increased risk of depression and other mental health issues in teenagers. By starting school later, students are able to get the sleep they need, which can help reduce the risk of developing these conditions.

This is particularly important considering the rising rates of mental health issues among teenagers.

Reduces Drowsy Driving in Teens

Starting school later can also contribute to the safety of teenage drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drowsy driving is a major concern among teenagers. By allowing them to get more sleep, starting school later can decrease the likelihood of drowsy driving incidents, which can help prevent accidents and save lives.

The Potential Drawbacks of Starting School Later

Scheduling Sports and Extracurriculars Becomes More Difficult

One potential drawback of starting school later is that it can make scheduling sports and extracurricular activities more challenging. Many students participate in after-school sports teams, clubs, and other activities that require coordination with their school schedule.

When school starts later, it may conflict with the practice times or game schedules, causing students to miss out on these opportunities. This can be frustrating for students who are passionate about their extracurricular activities and may hinder their overall development and growth.

Increases Childcare Costs and Logistical Challenges for Working Parents

Another downside of starting school later is the increased childcare costs and logistical challenges it can pose for working parents. When school starts later, parents may need to find alternative arrangements for their children in the mornings, such as hiring a babysitter or enrolling them in before-school care programs.

This can result in additional expenses for parents and add to the already demanding juggle of work and family responsibilities. Additionally, the logistics of drop-off and pick-up times may become more complicated, causing stress and inconvenience for busy parents.

May Make After-School Jobs and Activities More Difficult

Starting school later can also make it more difficult for students who have after-school jobs or participate in activities outside of school. Many students rely on part-time jobs to earn money for themselves or contribute to their families’ finances.

When school starts later, it can limit the number of hours they can work in the afternoons, potentially affecting their financial stability. Similarly, students who engage in activities such as volunteering, music lessons, or community service may find it harder to fit these commitments into their schedules if school ends later in the day.

Reduces Time for Homework and Family Activities

One of the potential drawbacks of starting school later is that it reduces the time available for homework and family activities. With a later start to the school day, students may have less time in the afternoons and evenings to complete their assignments, leading to increased stress and less time for leisure activities.

Additionally, families may have less quality time together as the later end time can interfere with family dinners, outings, or other bonding activities. Maintaining a healthy work-life balance becomes more challenging in such situations.

While there are some potential drawbacks to starting school later, it is important to weigh them against the potential benefits, such as improved academic performance and better overall well-being for students.

It is a complex issue that requires careful consideration and a balance between the needs of students, parents, and the community as a whole.

Key Factors for School Districts to Consider

When it comes to the debate over starting school later, there are several key factors that school districts must take into consideration. These factors range from transportation logistics and costs to the impacts on working families, as well as the balance between academic and extracurricular activities.

Additionally, it is crucial to examine the available student sleep and health data in order to make an informed decision that benefits all parties involved.

Transportation Logistics and Costs

One of the major considerations for school districts when contemplating a later start time is the impact on transportation logistics and costs. Adjusting the school schedule may require changes to bus routes and schedules, potentially increasing expenses for the district.

It is important to carefully evaluate these logistical challenges and weigh them against the potential benefits of a later start time.

Impacts on Working Families

Another crucial factor to consider is the impact on working families. Many parents rely on the current school schedule to coordinate their own work schedules and childcare arrangements. A later start time could pose challenges for these families, potentially requiring them to make significant adjustments to their daily routines.

School districts must carefully assess the potential disruptions and seek input from parents and guardians to ensure that any changes are feasible and sustainable.

Balancing Academic and Extracurricular Activities

One of the main concerns regarding a later start time is the potential impact on academic and extracurricular activities. A delayed start could result in a shorter school day, potentially affecting instructional time and the ability to offer a comprehensive curriculum.

School districts need to carefully evaluate the trade-offs between allowing students to get more sleep and maintaining a robust academic and extracurricular program. It may be necessary to explore creative solutions to maximize both sleep and educational opportunities.

Student Sleep and Health Data

When considering a later start time, it is essential to examine the available student sleep and health data. Numerous studies have shown that teenagers have different sleep patterns compared to younger children and adults.

Research suggests that delaying school start times can lead to improved sleep quality, better academic performance, and reduced health risks. School districts should review the existing research and collect data specific to their student population to better understand the potential benefits of a later start time.


Starting school later is a complex issue with reasonable arguments on both sides. While the research indicates significant benefits for teens getting more sleep, there are also logistical challenges schools must work through.

Districts thinking of making the change should carefully analyze transportation costs, impacts on families, and student health data. With careful planning, later school start times can likely improve academic performance and quality of life for students.

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