It is also a fact that many children are not getting the sleep they need.
It’s unfortunate that the solution is not simple because the schedule on which American children operate can’t be easily changed. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s desire to see these changes, detailed in a Star story Tuesday, is fraught with all sorts of complications.
School starting times could be pushed back so students don’t have to catch a bus when it is still dark. However, that would mean the whole school day would have to be revised and classes would have to be taught later in the afternoon, which would cut into precious after-school athletic activities.
Starting later might require all schools — elementary, middle and high — to start at a time so close together that some school districts would have to buy more buses, since staggering school starting times has allowed them to use the same buses to deliver students to different schools. From where will that money come? In Alabama, where school systems are already struggling to make do with the money they have, having to ante up more for transportation would be a big hurdle to clear.
What about parents who send their children to school and then go to work? A later starting time might mean some parents would leave their children unsupervised in the morning before the bus arrives. That would be a particular problem for elementary age students.
Meanwhile, there are the students themselves. Despite the early starting time, despite knowing they will be rousted from bed around sunrise, or earlier, so they can catch a bus, many refuse to go to sleep early, even if parents send them to their rooms. This is nothing new. Once, students got under the covers and read with a flashlight. Today, they get under the covers and text friends who are doing the same.
For the health of students, a solution must be found, but finding it will require all interested parties — teachers, students, parents, coaches, administrators, employers — to give a little ground. Not everyone will be happy with the outcome, but perhaps it will lead to a school schedule that allows American students to get more sleep, which they undoubtedly need.