Prior to Covid, the majority of K-12 schools were running on schedules that didn’t serve students well. In the latter half of the 20th century, school start and end times were designed around bus schedules. To use the same fleet of buses for all students, schools in suburban areas created schedules with high school students as the first arrivals.
Yet study after study shows that early school starts don’t work best for adolescent sleep needs. Data supports the fact that later start times (after 8:30 am) are best for adolescents’ mental and physical health and generate improved academic performance. Researchers have also discovered teens who start school later in the day experience fewer car crashes, have a more even temperament at home, and are less prone to depression.
If you want to understand the pros and cons of virtual learning, you just need to ask students. While some complain of distance learning Zoom fatigue, lack of access to proper technology, poor wi-fi connections, and unbearable hours of homework, many students are talking about how grateful they are that at least school is starting later and ending earlier.
Abi Erle, a high school junior in San Diego, has been doing school remotely since March. Prior to Covid she was getting up at 6:30 a.m. in order to catch the bus and travel 20 minutes so she could be in class at 8 a.m. Now she sets her alarm for 7:20 a.m. so she can be online at 8:40 when her classes start on Zoom. They last until 1:40 p.m., which gives her time to spend with her six family members and to work on her business, Smile It Forward, which provides care packages to children going through chemotherapy. She misses her friends but she says her Covid schedule has “a silver-lining because I can sleep in and have more time to exercise and work on my physical health and extracurricular activities as well as do things that I enjoy such as working on my business and giving back to my community.”
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