To the Editor — Time to evaluate school start times

December 4, 2015

By Contributor

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I am a senior at Hazen High School, though I now participate full-time in Running Start.

I have experienced the consequences of the early start times in high schools that the Renton School District employs. I never thought I’d be the kid that falls asleep in class, but I found my head on my desk more times than I can count sophomore year. I missed 30 days of school that year — that’s one out of every six school days — due to illness and anxiety that was in part caused and exacerbated by poor sleep. To preserve my academic performance, I sacrificed my health to the 7:20 bell.

Renton enforces one of the earliest start times in the state. Though most of Washington’s high-schools begin before 8 a.m., few dare to see students in their seats before 7:30.

The National Sleep Foundation states that “Adolescent sleep deprivation is largely driven by a conflict between teens’ internal biological clocks and the schedules and demands of society. Therefore, it makes sense to look at school start times.” The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recommended high schools delay the first bell to 8:30 or later.

A study done in Minneapolis demonstrated that change from a 7:15 to 8:40 bell improved attendance and enrollment rates and decreased student-reported depression. Other advantages include better grades, fewer tardies and a decreased risk of drowsy driving.

I bring this to your attention because I believe it is the Renton community’s time to act. Our neighboring school districts are pushing large advocacy efforts. Issaquah is petitioning for an 8:30 bell. Bellevue and Mercer Island have created a steering committee to push the same start time. Finally, the Seattle Schools superintendent has proposed an 8:50 bell in high schools. Transportation conflicts are fixed by making elementary start times earlier, which pairs well with younger children’s internal clocks.

The benefits in student performance and well-being that these school districts will reap mean that Renton cannot stay “ahead of the curve” by forcing its students to wake up more than an hour before their surrounding peers.

Kate Lilly

Hazen High School senior

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