One popular feature of the McNicholas schedule is the monthly pair of block days, the first of which is a late start day for students. While some students may want that later 8:55 a.m. start to happen more often, rather than the normal 7:40 a.m. start, this simply isn’t feasible.
Students enjoy the late starts for a number of reasons. Some enjoy the extra time to sleep, while others like being able to go out for breakfast.
“I have time to sleep in and actually eat a full breakfast,” sophomore Elyse Thaman said.
“Even though it’s just an hour, it makes all the difference,” junior Lauren Steinkuhl added.
“I like [late start days] because it allows me time to do some homework in the morning instead of all at night,” senior Jared Taylor said.
According to a 2013 article from brainpickings.org, the teenage brain doesn’t begin releasing melatonin, a primary sleep-cycle hormone, until 11 p.m., making it hard for teens to go to sleep before then. That melatonin doesn’t begin draining from the body until around 8 a.m. This time can vary some hours, depending on the teen’s personal health and habits. The article cites the award-winning novel Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, by David K. Randall, saying “With all that melatonin surging through their bloodstream, teenagers who are forced to be awake before eight in the morning are often barely alert and want nothing more than to give in to their body’s demands and fall back asleep…. [A]sking a teenager to perform well in a classroom during the early morning is like asking him or her to fly across the country and instantly adjust to the new time zone — and then do the same thing every night, for four years.” Unfortunately, this means that the first couple classes of McNick’s normal schedules are fairly futile, so late starts should obviously be more frequent, and regular school days themselves should start later, too.
However, this wouldn’t actually solve any problems. Starting school days later would just mean that the school day would end later, pushing after-school activities into the nighttime, not changing how much sleep students actually get.
Principal Patty Beckert said that because McNick has a certain number of hours to complete in class mandated by the State of Ohio Department of Educations, shortening the school day isn’t feasible either. If the day was shortened or more late starts were added to the schedule, Beckert said that some of the breaks or days off throughout the year would have to be taken away or school would have to run further into summer to fulfill the necessary hours. She also added that the main purpose for the late start was so that she could hold her monthly teacher meeting efficiently without inconveniencing the teachers by keeping them after school, but she knows how much the students like late starts, too.
Another problem with late starts deals with student attendance. Beckert said that more students are normally tardy on late start days. This is because students are out buying breakfast, and while it is good that students are getting the energy they need, they must manage their time better to get to school on time. Frankly, if students are not able to respect the start time of late start days, then they shouldn’t be rewarded with more late start days.
While late starts allow students to get better breakfast or more sleep that they are in dire biological need of, more of them simply aren’t feasible. Adding more late start days or shortening normal school days would eliminate breaks or increase the school year, an offset that makes the reward not worthwhile. However, society and the education system do need to continue focusing on a widespread solution to allow students to live healthier and happier, only keeping the current system until a better one is uncovered.