By Alex White
With today’s academic rigor, many Mira Costa students are losing valuable hours of sleep to homework and studying. A schedule proposed by Manhattan Beach Unified School District’s Medical Advisory Board that starts and ends school approximately an hour later would help students gain back hours of sleep and increase mental well-being.
At a Nov. 16 MBUSD Board of Trustees meeting, Drs. Mini Mehra and Linda Schack, physicians from MBUSD’s Medical Advisory Board, presented a proposal for a revised schedule that would have school beginning at 9 a.m. and ending at 4 p.m., eliminating zero period. The proposal cited different benefits such as lower tardiness rates and a decrease in teenage car accidents.
The Board received their proposal and said it would take their message into consideration when planning a bell schedule for the future, but the plan must be approved by teachers first.
The Medical Advisory Board stated that high school age teenagers should be sleeping nine to 10 hours per night but are actually getting less than seven. And not getting enough rapid eye movement sleep, the deepest and most beneficial kind of sleep, can have serious consequences.
With less sleep, activities like driving and doing homework become more difficult, according to the Advisory Board’s studies. A modified bell schedule will increase the amount of sleep students receive.
A study done by a team of Massachusetts doctors in 2004 compared 7th and 8th graders at two schools, one starting at 7:15 a.m. the other at 8:37 a.m. The school that started later saw better grades for 8th graders and had four times less tardies. Furthermore, surveys of students and parents showed mental health benefits such as less depression and anxiety. A later start time would not only benefit students’ academics but their mental health as well.
However, the schedule does haves its faults. It suggests the elimination of zero period, which would be unfeasible for students with multiple extracurriculars. It also calls for the adoption of a differing schedule for elementary, middle and high schools to account for different sleep patterns between different age groups, which would create confusing irregularities between grades.
Opponents say the schedule cuts down on time for homework and other activities. However, a study done in a Minnesota school district with a similar schedule showed no significant changes in free time. An extra hour of sleep allows students to be more productive with the amount of time they already have.
A new later bell schedule would be beneficial for district schools. It would provide students with proper amounts of sleep as well as mental health benefits. MBUSD should adopt this plan, as it would boost student morale significantly.