Adjusting School Start Times: Too Little, Too Late


Recently in the Virginia Beach school district, a large topic of debate has come up. Virginia Beach is considering pushing back the school start times for students, which would push high schools to start at 9:20, two hours later than the current time. But changing the school start times is not beneficial to students or to the city. Students are already used to the current start times, which allows them to participate in many after-school activities and have jobs. Keeping the current start times will mean less adjustment for parents and overall savings in costs of Virginia Beach schools. School start times should not change because it will be more beneficial to students both short-term and long-term. 

In high school, students participate in numerous after school activities, both sport and academic-related. Pushing back the start times by two hours would mean pushing back the end times of activities by two hours. 

According to a 2001 study, “school administrators cited extracurricular activities as a major reason why high school campuses would rather start earlier in the day.” (Anderson). Having sports that late in the day could prevent students from doing homework or simply having a life outside of school. Putting sports practices in the morning would only contradict the idea the pushing back start times would help students get more sleep because students would still be waking up early. The current start times allow for a good balance between home life, school, and activities. 

Another factor that goes hand-in-hand with after school activities is after school jobs. Many teens, especially juniors and seniors, have after school jobs that would be affected by the time change. Pushing the start times back means that most working students would not be able to work until 4:30, which could be bad for businesses that have many teenage workers. 

Changing the start times could also discourage students from getting jobs or doing after school activities and clubs, which would be bad for both businesses and schools. But the start times now work out very well for students, schools, and businesses in Virginia Beach.

In addition, changing the start times may require hiring more bus drivers for the city, which would mean more overall costs. Adjusting the times would mean adjusting to a completely new schedule, so the city would likely take a few years to figure out the new times and create the most cost-effective system. 

By keeping the times the same, the city could “save up to 30 percent on transportation costs” (Anderson). Changing the start times would also mean high school students, who generally have to travel the farthest by bus, would be let out around 4:10, which means more traffic and more transportation costs. Not changing the times would be more economically beneficial to the city.

Keeping the current start times would also be beneficial to parents. While it may not matter much what time high school students get home, it will matter for elementary school students. If elementary students begin school at 7:20 AM, like the city is recommending, then they will get home at 2 PM. Many parents who have jobs will not be able to get home in time to take care of their children after school, and many high school students who care for their younger siblings after school will be getting home much later than them.

While there are after school programs to take care of younger children after school, many families may not be able to pay for it. If start times stay the same, then parents do not have to adjust their schedules so drastically and it will be much more cost-effective for families all across Virginia Beach.

One of the biggest reasons that people are pushing for school start time changes is that more sleep for high school students may improve academic performance or engagement in classes. However, experts say “there has been no systematic synthesis of the evidence on the effects of this practice” (Minges, Redeker). So far, there have not been enough tests to confirm an improvement in academic performances.

There are so many different kinds of students and personalities, and this results in very skewed results. The fact is that there have simply not been enough “rigorous randomized study designs and reporting of consistent outcomes” to prove that delayed start times will actually help students to improve upon their academics. Many people say that pushing times back will benefit students, but many students will most likely not take advantage of this, and not enough randomized studies have actually been conducted and produced consistent results. 

The school board may be arguing for delayed start times in high schools across Virginia Beach, but ultimately this goes against the interest of the students. Pushing back the start times would mean major adjustments financially and for both students and parents. Also, there have not been any conclusive studies on the academic benefits for students. So in the end, the real question that needs to be considered is whether or not changing the school start times would actually benefit all students and parents.

Works Cited:

Anderson, Marie. “What Is the Advantage of Having School Start Early?” Synonym, 31 Mar.
Connors, Mike. “Virginia Beach Is Changing School Start Times. Here Are the Final 4 Options.”, The Virginian-Pilot, 26 July 2019,
Minges, Karl E., and Nancy S. Redeker. “Delayed School Start Times and Adolescent Sleep: A
Systematic Review of the Experimental Evidence.” Sleep Medicine Reviews, W.B.
Saunders, 29 June 2015,
“Virginia Beach School Leaders Release Recommendations for New Start Times.”,
9 Oct. 2019,