Students React to 9 A.M. Start Times

Students React to 9 A.M. Start Times

By: Nico Gonzales-Reed

Multiple medical studies have argued a later start time would help the well-being of teenagers, leading the Upper School administration, in coordination with the tri-school, to implement a 9 A.M. start time on Wednesdays this year. Last year when news first broke of the coming 9 A.M. start, students anxiously anticipated more time to complete work and more time to sleep. The new start would help students begin their day at a more relaxed pace and hopefully help with any conflicts outside of school, like carpooling. Gilman asks a lot of its students, and the new proposal would aim to ease some of the pressure off of the students’ backs. According to medical studies, a small amount of stress is good for a high school student, considering it will motivate him to work harder and complete his work; however, no student should feel overwhelmed by his responsibilities, and the new start time aims to fix that. Now that students have experienced roughly two months of 9 A.M. start times, the Gilman News went out to gather their reactions.

As of now, the reactions to the start time have been overwhelmingly positive. According to a poll conducted by the Gilman News, eighty-eight percent of Upper School students found the later start was helpful in catching up with sleep, and eighty-five percent of students found the later start time as helpful for catching up with work. Overall, eighty-eight percent of students found the 9 A.M. start time as effective in improving all-around alertness at school. Ultimately, the start time has reached its intended goal in creating a more relaxed environment.

“I was excited [about the policy],” said Student Body President Piper Bond (’18). “I knew that it would allow me to have more time to sleep and do work-both of which are very important since we have a tremendous workload.”   Like most Upper Schoolers, Piper truly appreciated the extra amount of sleep he received, especially considering his duties to the honor council, the football team, and to the entire Upper School serving as president. It goes without saying that for Piper, sleep is vital to having a successful school day. Piper also noted that he, “...functioned better in the classroom and on the field.” In addition to getting more sleep and getting time for work, Piper likes “...going from second period straight to lunch and then assembly”.  

“When I first heard of it, I was very excited to know that I was going to get an extra hour of sleep in the middle of the week,” said Trevor Weiner (’20). Trevor, who is new to the Upper School, is  getting used to life as a high school student and as expected, there will be differences to overcome during his transition from the Middle School. When asked if the 9 A.M. start helped with his transition, Trevor said, “I don’t think that it has helped my transition, but I do certainly feel like it makes the middle of the week more enjoyable.” However, Trevor feels like the schedule has made him more well rested in the middle of the week, in addition to helping with his athletic practices after school. Trevor acknowledged his workload “isn’t that bad” and says the late start doesn’t affect his homework. Overall, Trevor believes the new time is a “very solid start” to the school day.

When sophomore Gabe Gonzales first heard of the new start, he was excited to get an extra hour of sleep. However, Gabe takes the bus to school and noticed that he could not get that extra time to sleep, but Gabe notes that, “Overall it does help a little bit with [completing] homework”. Gabe lives and hour away in Severn, Maryland making his commute very complicated, therefore giving him less time to do homework in the evening. Although the start time may not help him with his sleep schedule, it has helped him complete his homework in the morning.

Mr. Rob Heubeck, Head of the Upper School and one of the many administrators who helped initiate the new start time, wanted to create a healthier learning environment for the students at Gilman. “The inspiration came from research about boys/young men which talks about appropriate hours of sleep each night and the most effective time to begin school. Essentially, it was inspired by studying ways to help improve student wellness,”said Mr. Heubeck when asked for the inspiration behind the new start. After about two months of experience with the new start, Mr. Heubeck has had enough time to see the results of the start. “For students, it allows more sleep. For adults, it provides us with 60 minutes to gather and talk about things related to teaching.”

As with most new things, there will be problems that must be fixed. Considering the improved start time is very new, there are still some major and minor things that can be fixed. One example of an issue arises in the science department, where labs are run almost every day. “It is difficult to plan for running the same lab procedures with different classes over different periods of time (one hour delay is ninety minutes versus the two-hour lab on a regular school day),” said Mr. Frank Fitzgibbon, an Upper School science teacher. As a result of a later start time, classes, and labs especially, experience some setbacks considering the cut in time. However, Mr. Fitzgibbon adds, “having said that, science teachers are intelligent, resourceful, and flexible and we figure it out without it negatively impacting the experience of the students”. According to Mr. Heubeck, “it’s too early to tell” if the administration should fix the new schedule, but if we are “talking big picture schedule, yes there are quite a few changes we can make that would improve the day”.

Considering the administration who orchestrated the new schedule and start time continue to meet, one should expect changes in the schedule in the near future. What those changes are cannot be determined now, for it is too early, but the start time has shown some great progress. An overwhelming amount of students seem to concur with the implementation of the start time. Hopefully, as the year progresses, the start time will continue to improve and help assist students in their Upper School journeys.