Senior petitions for sleep

With the start of a new school year, there is a renewed interest in the recurring debate over early high school start times and whether an additional hour of sleep in the morning could have a positive impact on students.  

Richard Montgomery senior Josh Rothman has taken up the cause in favor of a later start time by co-authoring a petition that proposes the school day for high school students start closer to 8:30 a.m., a time he feels is more appropriate.

“I feel strongly about this issue because sleep is crucially important, but it is often overlooked as a factor in students’ performance and health,” Rothman said. “Sleep is a biological necessity, but few teenagers get enough of it.”

According to the National Sleep Foundation, high school-aged students require a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep per night.  Rothman has gathered data claiming that 9 hours and 15 minutes is an ideal amount of sleep and has been shown to improve academic performance, decrease tardiness and reduce obesity and depression in teens.

 “Teen-centric school hours are worth the cost,” Rothman said.  “MCPS already spends massive sums of money on various programs designed to improve student test-taking performance.  If students can get more sleep, they’ll learn better and think better and ultimately they will perform better on standardized tests.”

However, the impact of such a change is complicated and far-reaching.  The later start time would force middle and elementary school students to change bus schedules, which would be a logistically difficult task, and would also entail additional costs.  

 “[Starting schools later] is not worth the complications,” said sophomore Michael Phillips-Spencer. “It’s a waste of time.”

According to an August 2009 Gazette article, the Board of Education has discussed the possibility of a later start several times in the past decade, but has determined that there are too many problems involved in making the switch. 

“A petition is only the first step,” Rothman said.  “If we hope to be successful, then the students, parents, teachers and administrators of Montgomery County must actively pressure the school board to institute this change.”