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SWAG members discuss school start time

Most say LOSD should keep the schedule as is to accommodate extracurricular activities


Courtney-DurrettShould the morning bell ring a little later each day?

In October, the Lake Oswego School District formed a School Start Time Task Force to address that question, and it first met Sept. 22. Led by Michael Musick, the LOSD’s executive director of school management, the task force includes principals, teachers, staff and parents from each school level, and there was a student panel on Nov. 3. It is scheduled to report its findings to the School Board in December.

In the meantime, the Student Writers Advisory Group — a team of writers from Lake Oswego, Lakeridge, West Linn and Wilsonville high schools — decided to form its own task force-of-sorts by taking on the topic in print. Not all 17 members write articles for SWAG each month, but of those who did in November, most came down largely in favor of keeping the start time as is.

Lakeridge’s Savanna Courtney-Durrett, Nina Heidgerken and Lauren Monkewicz and LOHS’s Lily DeVine said letting the sun rise higher in the sky before students get to class just wouldn’t work, because it pushes forward athletics and other post-school activities districtwide and also could push back pre-school activities. LOHS junior Joe Lantow said the band students are the most passionate on this topic, based on an experience his brother had when he created a petition to make the start time later.

Lakeridge sophomore Claire Petersen said early start times can affect students’ health.

West Linn’s Anna Spear stated that early hours and, especially, piles of homework overload and stress students, while West Linn’s Kaleigh Henderson said stacks of homework and longer hours prep teens for future careers.

Here’s what this month’s writers had to say:

Late start times for students: a positive change?

By Savanna Courtney-Durrett

I am not in support of starting school at a later time.

Initially, I was thrilled at the idea of being able to sleep in and not having to wake up when the sky can be mistaken for the middle of the night. However, once I truly thought about the impact this change would have not only on me but also on my friends and family, I began to change my initial excitement to hesitance.

It’s a common stereotype that teenagers prefer to stay up late and sleep in, but the reverse is true for me. For the past three years, I have been waking up at 6:15 a.m. and leaving my house at 7:15 a.m. for school. This has become such a routine for me that I often will wake up a little before my alarm clock goes off. For me, waking up early isn’t an issue; in fact, I see it as a benefit. I enjoy waking up early when I have gone to bed at a reasonable time and therefore had a good amount of sleep.

I also have an early release built into my schedule at Lakeridge, which is far more beneficial to me than the alternative of a late arrival. But both options are available at my school, so I feel that if a student feels strongly about getting to sleep in, they already have the option of taking late arrival.

Another key influence on my view was the impact a later start time would have on the people I care about. For instance, my brother, a seventh-grader at Lakeridge Junior High School, is very against the change. As a year-round athlete and one who will be at Lakeridge in less than two years, he finds the change would impact his days negatively.

This is a major argument expressed not only by my brother, but also by his fellow athletes and students participating in extracurricular activities. By starting school later, these activities would also either have to start later or be held immediately after school, which would lead to students rushing to do homework quickly before their activities started or staying up very late to finish after they are done.

At the start, I saw the later start time through rose-colored lenses. But now, I have removed the lenses and see the dramatic impact on students’ lives if this change were made.

Savanna Courtney-Durrett is a junior at Lakeridge High School.

What would happen if school was to start later in the day?

DeVineBy Lily DeVine

If school was to start at a later time, it would automatically end at a later time.

Students would then have to change their schedules for after-school activities, including sport practices, clubs or work. This would lead to more complications for students who still have to study and finish their homework.

Besides students, parents would also be under pressure with school starting at a later hour. Many students live outside of Lake Oswego and have to get rides from parents to school instead of taking the bus. Parents would not be able to give their kids a ride to school if school starts after their workday begins.

There is no denying that school brings stress, but students can take advantage of that stress because they have more power than what they give themselves credit for.

Before a job interview a few years from where they are now, they can think back to their high school days. Students can remember when it was 1:30 a.m., they had an unfinished English paper to do and they had a chemistry test in eight hours. By thinking about their high school nightmares, they can remind themselves that they are hard workers who are strong enough to complete their work despite the pressure.

Lily DeVine is a freshman at Lake Oswego High School.

Music’s worth an early start

HeidgerkenBy Nina Heidgerken

Starting school earlier could cause problems for the Beginning Strings and Elementary Orchestra programs. They are for grades 4 and 5, and are intended to train and inspire young musicians.

The school district only has so many buses, so high school, junior high and elementary schools could not all start at the same time. This means that in order for the high schools to start later, elementary school would have to start earlier. This gives less time for the music programs in the morning. The programs could happen after school instead, of course, but then they would compete with sports and most likely cause fewer kids to pick up an instrument.

Learning a musical instrument is one of the most beneficial and satisfying accomplishments that could happen in a person’s life. People’s lives have been completely altered because of the decision to play an instrument when they were 9 years old. The Beginning Strings and Elementary Orchestra Programs have inspired successful musicians.

In April 2015, Lakeridge High School won the Three Rivers League orchestra competition. Lakeridge and Lake Oswego high schools’ musicians always perform well in Oregon School Activities Association’s Solo Music competition, with strings players often taking home awards.

Our Beginning Strings and Elementary Orchestra Programs are thriving; this not a time to jeopardize the number of participants. Besides, every kid deserves the chance to learn to play an instrument.

I am not opposed to a later start time, but if starting later were to mean a decrease in the music programs, I am not sure sleeping in later is worth losing the satisfaction and healing that music has brought to so many Lake Oswego kids over the years.   

Nina Heidgerken is a junior at Lakeridge High School.

School hours should stay as they are

HendersonBy Kaleigh Henderson

People are arguing that high schools need to start later, get out earlier and give less homework. I couldn’t disagree more. You do realize that most real-life jobs (which high school prepares you for) are from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.? That’s eight hours of basically nonstop work.

My high school is from 8:30 a.m.-3:10 p.m., meaning a grand total of 6 hours and 40 minutes every day. That’s including the hour break for lunch, the half-day Wednesdays every other week, various holidays no one even celebrates anymore and any winter day when there’s half an inch of snow on the ground. Not to mention the three and a half months a year we get off for summer vacation. You want to make that less?

The more time we have off, the less prepared we are for real, adult lives. My mom is exhausted every night because she leaves for work at 6:30 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 6 o’clock at night. My dad has to take time off work, his personal time, just to spend time with his family on the days everyone gets off except for him. Neither of my parents go to bed until around midnight, not because they’re up late watching TV or playing on their cellphones (my mom had a flip phone up until a year ago). They stay up late just to make a dent in the hours upon hours of work they have, and they have to do it in the hours and hours of time they don’t.

Cutting back on homework only leads to a cold-water-in-your-face wake-up call when you get to college and get a job. We have what, maybe three or four hours of homework a night? Colleges give easily twice that much, and most jobs give more hours of work than there are hours in a day. If high schools say, “Oh, we don’t want to overwork you; you teens are so fragile, so no homework today and no homework tomorrow and no homework, no homework, no homework,” then colleges will say, “OMG, you don’t know this, this, this and this; well, you need to, so here are 30 hours of college-level homework covering what you should have learned in high school. Good luck fitting that into your already incredibly busy adult schedules!”

While it is true that teens today have sports, extracurriculars and sleep needs, those aren’t (or at least shouldn’t be) a teen’s first priority. If you go easy on us today, we will be severely under-prepared tomorrow and every day after that until we retire. So please, stack on the homework; get rid of the breaks we don’t need. Let us learn all that we can today, so we will be able to learn new stuff tomorrow.

I am begging you to make me ready for adult life. I want to be able to enjoy that life instead of floundering once I reach it. I want to be like my parents are, because they are the smartest, hardest-working and most dependable people I know, and someday, I want to have kids that will say the same about me.

Kaleigh Henderson is a freshman at West Linn High School.

‘I thought that the only thing that mattered was my voice’

LantowBy Joe Lantow

Controversy around the start schedule isn’t a recent phenomenon. Almost seven years ago, my older brother Paul Lantow tried to change the LO school district schedule. He got 750 signatures, started a Facebook page with hundreds of supporters, and worked to make sure the school board knew public opinion.

He also failed miserably.

I asked him why the campaign collapsed, and he gave a surprising — if cryptic — answer. He blamed a group that is never really addressed in the start schedule debate. “The band kids” he said, “The band kids ruined everything.”

It turns out that the special interest group that was most terrifying wasn’t the athletics (who were apparently irrelevant), or the school staff. The unassuming band kids showed up in force on the day of a Lake Oswego School Board meeting regarding the school schedule. Dozens of them were there, while only a few late-start advocates showed up. While the late-start plan may have had popular support, it sure didn’t look that way at the school board meeting.

So why did the band kids take the scheduling so seriously? Well, like most scheduling complaints, it all came down to the buses. It turns out that elementary school students relied on the early bus schedule in order to go to their “Period 0” early morning band classes. Band students feared that some children would stop doing band if it was harder to get to classes. This might limit the school band a couple years down the road. So many band students spoke to the School Board, and the decision came down to scheduling versus the band. The band won four votes to one.

So what would Lantow have done differently if he was starting over again? Poking fun at his naive high school self, he said he would have preferred to have many more supporters show up.

“I was 17 — I didn’t know a lot about politicking,” he told me. “I thought that the only thing that mattered was my voice and the 750 signatures I had. I thought that would be persuasive enough. But it’s easy to imagine that the School Board may have been swayed by the dozen of band kids, compared to our small support. Even though we said we were representing 750 people, we only had two or three people actually arguing for our side. I would’ve tried harder to make more bodies show up to the meeting”

So, if you are planning to radically change the start schedule, don’t focus your attention on the athletics. Because behind their happy demeanor and huge instruments, the band kids apparently wield immense political power.

Joe Lantow is a junior at Lake Oswego High School.

Don’t hit snooze

MonkewiczBy Lauren Monkewicz

Schools starting later — just the concept can make some teenagers leap for joy and others groan in exasperation, and parents are similarly polarized on the issue. Truthfully, the reaction is complicated because the issue itself is no simple matter. Having a later start for schools would affect many people’s daily lives in multitudes of ways, and although I’m “pro sleep,” I have to say that I’m against later starts.

At first glance, it seems like an absolute gift. I originally pictured the classic image of waking up to a shining sun and chirping birds — until I took a closer look. The beauty behind a later start would be much-needed extra sleep for teenagers, though this optimistic goal would not necessarily be achieved. I speak for myself and most teens I know when I say that the reason why adolescents stay up so late generally boils down to one factor: homework.

Like any issue, there are multiple dimensions to the staggering sleeping patterns of teens, but homework is one of the rare things that inevitably affects our schedules — if homework demands to be done, it must be made top priority, even over sleep.

Thus, while it is imperative, sleep is cast aside and homework dominates the teenage timetable. Late start times seem like a solution to squeeze in more shut-eye, but schools would also have to get out later. Consequently, students would be starting and finishing homework later and ultimately going to bed later, defeating the purpose of schools starting later.

For me, the paradoxical nature of late start times is what proves to be their most deeply flawed aspect, although the fact that athletes would suffer is not to be ignored. This being said, it’s immensely uplifting to see that sleep deprivation is being acknowledged — and that active measures to remedy the situation are being considered.

Perhaps in the future, officials could consider the underlying and fundamental issue: excessive homework. For now, it’s important for our nation to face one challenge at a time — and stay away from the snooze button.

Lauren Monkewicz is a junior at Lakeridge High School.

Sleepy-student struggles

PetersenBy Claire Petersen

Five minutes into my first period class, I notice three people struggling to keep their eyes open, the majority of the class despondent, as the teacher struggles to lecture, while continuously sipping coffee. Outside the window, the football field is black. The sun hasn’t awakened and neither have our minds.

It is human nature to awake when the sun rises and go to sleep when it sets. According to pediatrician Judith Owens, “Chronic sleep loss in children and adolescents is one of the most common — and easily fixable — public health issues in the U.S. today,” she writes in an article, “School Start Times for Adolescents” published in the journal Pediatrics in 2014.

“The research is clear that adolescents who get enough sleep have a reduced risk of being overweight or suffering depression, are less likely to be involved in automobile accidents, and have better grades, higher standardized test scores and an overall better quality of life,” said Owens, the director of sleep medicine at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C.

Those are some of the reasons the American Academy of Pediatrics recently took the position that school start times for high school should begin after 8 a.m. More than 50 percent of public high schools start classes after 8 a.m. While sometimes there is a cost issue with adding more buses to accommodate later start times across the district, there is much to be gained by students getting recommended sleep of at least eight hours. I, personally, agree that a bit of a later start time for high schoolers would benefit the health of both students and teachers, resulting in a stronger learning environment.

Claire Petersen is a sophomore at Lakeridge High School.

Excess homework can impact teens

SpearBy Anna Spear

Almost every student knows the sleep struggle too well — the late nights full of homework and the early mornings waking up for school.

These days, very few high school students get the recommended amount of sleep each night. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teenagers should get an average of nine to 10 hours of sleep per night. Sadly, only about 8 per-cent of high school students are getting the recommended amount of sleep, whereas one-fifth are getting five or fewer hours of sleep per school night, according to the CDC.

As sleep directly affects cognitive function and memory retention, this lack of sleep is harmful to students and their

educations all over America. Two possible explanations for this nationwide exhaustion are early school start times and excessive homework.

In the current education system, school, grades and homework all go hand in hand. Teachers begin assigning homework as early as kindergarten, and it becomes the norm for the rest of students’ school years. Schools have been using homework as an extension of a child’s learning for many years, and will most likely continue to assign it. While homework is not inherently detrimental, assigning it in excess, as many schools do today, can have harmful effects on teenagers.

In a study of more than 1,000 full-time teachers across America, high school teachers reported assigning an average of three and a half hours of homework per week. This number, however, is not representative of the total amount of homework a high school student has; in a full schedule of six classes, a teenager could have up to 21 hours of homework per week, according to a University of Phoenix article.

When added to the amount of time spent at school per week (about 35 hours), this means that high school students spend about 11 hours per weekday on academics. This is longer than the average adult’s workday; if school were a student’s job, it would be violating child labor laws.

Anna Spear is a junior at West Linn High School.