Editorial: Later days doesn’t mean better grades

Illustration by Lindsay Lang.

On Wednesday, Nov. 6, Sen. Kamala Harris proposed a new bill that would keep public schools open until 6 p.m. The belief behind this bill, the Family Friendly Schools Act, is that it would assist parents and ease their burdens of trying to find people to care for their children between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. while they’re at work.

Harris would like to pilot this bill at 500 elementary schools around the nation. Each school that gets the grant will be for a 5-year period. Each participating school will earn no more than $5,000,000 for the duration of the grant. To which a determining factor for the amount will be the number of students in attendance at the school.

For those three additional hours of being open, the students would partake in extracurricular activities or get involved in the community. The bill doesn’t tell the schools exactly what they will be doing. Instead it will be left open to the school and community to decide what’s best, as long as the schools stay open until 6 p.m.

Currently, one of the biggest flaws with the school system is starting so early in the day. Children usually have to wake up at around 6 a.m. in order to get to the bus and make it to classes on time that start at 8 a.m. With this bill being implemented, that means that children will be spending almost 12 full hours at school.

According to a TED Talk by sleep researcher Wendy Troxel in 2016, “only about one in 10 gets the eight to 10 hours of sleep per night recommended by sleep scientists and pediatricians. Now if you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Phew, we’re doing good, my kid’s getting eight hours,’ remember, eight hours is the minimum recommendation. You’re barely passing. Eight hours is kind of like getting a C on your report card.”

Troxel goes on to say how during adolescence is the time of prime brain development. A regular, extended sleep schedule would help make sure teenagers meet the standard of what society and school systems place upon them.

Lack of sleep comes with far more problems for teenagers than just not paying attention in school. It’s been linked to causing mental health issues, substance abuse and even suicide.

In an article on sleepfoundation.org “[…]People with insomnia have greater levels of depression and anxiety than those who sleep normally. They are 10 times as likely to have clinical depression and 17 times as likely to have clinical anxiety. The more a person experiences insomnia and the more frequently they wake at night as a result, the higher the chances of developing depression.”

Falling into the spectrum of possible issues, if schools stay open until 6 p.m., are they also going to provide dinner for the students? If not, then that means the kids will have to come home, eat dinner, do their homework and try to wind down before going to bed. All to just get up early again before their full sleep schedule is met.

This isn’t the kind of stress we should be putting on kids and teenagers. If anything, the schools should open later. That way, kids can get their necessary amount of sleep, have a good breakfast and be fully awake and focused on school.

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