Last Spring, the SMUHSD Board of Trustees unanimously decided with a vote of 4-0 that on Thursdays, Aragon, Capuchino and Hillsdale will now hold teacher staff meetings in morning rather than the afternoon. As a result, students will now start school at 9:30 a.m and end school at 3:15 p.m as opposed to having the 1:45 p.m early dismissal every Thursday.
According to the Schoolloop announcement, “This new late start will not go into effect until the second week of school on Thursday, Aug. 24.”
“Originally, the idea was to move back the start time to 8:30,” said SMUHSD Superintendent Dr. Kevin Skelly, “but there was enough pushback from the community saying that kids have activities in the evening and afternoon, [and that] the traffic issues are worse for both staff and the students … All those things led the board to decide not to move the start time back every day but to move it back only on Thursdays.”
One of the reasons that this change is possible is because of the football stadium lights.
“During my first year [in the district] the issue was building to have lights on our fields because we really couldn’t do anything about later start or moving any of the athletics to a later time because it gets dark and you have no place to play,” said Skelly, “but now that we have lights on our stadium fields, soccer and football games can be held at night, and practices for soccer and football can be held later in the day too. All these moves will mean that kids won’t have early dismissals nearly as often as they did now. So our hope is that they will miss less class time and that more kids will choose to take a seventh period class.”
Assistant Principal Lisa Warnke clarifies, however, that most athletic schedules at Aragon will remain largely the same as the pre-late start schedule.
“The athletic schedules have never been based on the individual schools’ school bell schedules so I think most of the athletic schedules will remain the same except for schedules that were already changing because of the new lights in our football field,” said Warnke. “No athletic practices can happen until after the school day ends, and a lot of athletic practices had to happen late on Thursdays anyway because a lot of our teachers are also coaches, and they can’t be in two places at once so a lot of that won’t change that much.”
Even so, many student-athletes are still concerned that the pushback will cut into homework time.
“Getting off at 1:45 definitely helps me catch up on my work because I either have [two hours of] school or club volleyball, which requires me to drive all the way to Redwood City,” said junior volleyball player Kylie Larcher. “I get home very late and don’t have [much] time for homework afterwards. Personally, I’m not a morning person, but I feel like even if we did have more time in the morning to sleep in, we would have less time for activities or homework and force people to stay up later.”
Other students, such as junior Jason Wang and freshman Kimberly Yamada, believe that the extra sleep time is more important than the extra time for homework.
“The middle school I went to used to have a late start schedule,” said Wang, “[and] from my experience, having a late start day allows me to focus and learn much better than having an early dismissal day … In the previous school year, I got around six to seven hours of sleep because of my AP Biology zero period, so as I got to fifth and seventh period, I would start getting pretty tired and would sometimes fall asleep in class.”
Yamada agrees that a late start will increase her attentiveness in class, as she will use Thursdays to catch up on missed sleep from earlier in the week.
“It’s not great when you fall asleep in the middle of a chem lesson when you need it for the test the next week,” she said. “It’s also not great when the teacher wakes you up by letting a student scare you awake.”
Warnke concluded, “I don’t think changing the bell schedule is going to change the homework load at all, but I know, having working at high schools for a lot of years, that teenagers like to sleep in and maybe it’ll be nice to get a day of sleep in during the week and not just during the weekend, but I think it’ll be dependent on every student. When I was a student, I got up early and I still do as an adult so it won’t have much of an effect on me, but some people aren’t morning people so we’ll just have to wait and see how it works for everybody.