The Bar-On Brief: First period should start at 8:30 a.m.


Illustration by Maria Salter

By Shauli Bar-On , Columnist

The Bar-On Brief: A weekly column

For several weeks and for the entire time working on The Epitaph, I have reserved my opinion regarding school start times. I wrote a series of informational articles concerning the debate of whether first period should continue to begin at 7:50 a.m.

I spoke with key decision makers and experts on the issue. To name a few, Sharlene Liu, an HHS parent who started a petition asking the FUHSD to delay school start times, the district superintendent, members of the district board, members of the Fremont Educators Association and Stanford sleep researcher Dr. Rafael Pelayo.

After soaking in all the information, I’ve come to realize that the HHS schedule should be adjusted to have school begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m., roughly maintaining the number of hours school currently is.

Students who wish to take seven classes should have the option of taking a seventh from 3:00 p.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Such a shift in the schedule solves the problems brought up by some of the people I interviewed.

Students with extracurricular activities can end school at a reasonable time and athletes can continue having their sports practices begin at 3:15.

If Cupertino Middle School continues to start at 8:10 a.m., the difference between when HHS and CMS begin first period will remain the same, so there should not be any abnormal traffic conditions.

The American Psychological Association lists several benefits observed from later high school start times. They include an increased attendance rates, something the school has been trying hard to make reality, an increase in student GPA, an increase in state assessment scores and an increase in student attention.

In addition, experts agree that high school students are sleep deprived. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends school start at 8:30 a.m. Of course, this won’t solve sleep deprivation entirely. Experts say shifting school start times by an hour will gain students merely 20 extra minutes of sleep. Nonetheless, these 20 minutes are valuable. Just ask any student.

The FEA is in the process of discussing what it would mean to change the school start time, Principal Greg Giglio said. Although a change in schedule sounds easy, it is a logistical challenge, he said. Results from the Wellness survey sent out to parents, students and staff in September are being analyzed and will be shared with the public in the coming weeks.

Based on the survey results, administrators will know how to tackle this logistical challenge, which can and should be sorted out.

During Dr. Rafael Pelayo’s lecture in the HHS auditorium last January, he said something that made me realize the importance of changing when school starts.

Changing school start times “is not the only factor [in student sleep deprivation], but it’s the only modifiable factor,” Pelayo said.

And with that, I rest my case.

The Bar-On Brief is a weekly column that runs Thursdays. 

Follow Shauli Bar-On on Twitter @shauli_baron