| Photo by Tony Livernois
By Carolyn Dorantes
For many high school students, daily schedules changed dramatically during the pandemic. With the adoption of distance learning, many schools across the country changed their schedules. At the Salinas Union High School District, classes started at 8:10 a.m. and ended at 1:10 p.m. instead of the usual 3 p.m. As a high school student, this was a big improvement for me because I was able to have more time for life outside of school.
I was able to learn new hobbies like baking, cooking, crocheting and hiking. Having this time was also good for my mental health. Instead of worrying about completing my next homework assignment, I was able to explore different activities. This helped reduce my stress and anxiety levels and prevent me from getting burned out.
With high schools opening back up in August, SUHSD has decided to implement the old 8:10 a.m.-to-3 p.m. schedule. The strongest argument made by the district is that it was the norm before the pandemic, so it is what should be used when returning to school. After experiencing a more flexible schedule, I question whether we should be going back to a “normal” class schedule.
Discussion about changing class schedules has been going on for the past decade.
As schools reopen, many students have not been looking forward to returning to school for seven hours a day. We grew accustomed to having more time for sleep and for hobbies.
The reminder that I would need to be at school before 8:10 a.m. was especially tormenting. Waking up at 6 a.m. to dress and commute was challenging before, and it will be even more difficult now.
Even though studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that early school start times are bad for teen health, high schools have still not adopted later starts. According to Dr. Anne Wheaton, lead author and epidemiologist in CDC’s Division of Population Health, early school days lead to sleep deprivation and less academic success. The same CDC study showed that pushing back the start of the school day can impact students’ academic life. Later school start times can boost attendance, test scores and grades in core classes.
'Flexible schedules have allowed students to better express their creativity'
California legislation passed in 2019 requires that middle schools and high schools should not start until 8:30 a.m. However, the new start times will not be implemented until the 2022-23 school year.
Because students used distance learning for the past year and woke up later in the morning to start school, it would be easier to implement the law now. Doing this would allow districts to see how it impacts students’ academic performance.
In talking with students during distance learning, many expressed how they enjoyed having time to complete hobbies and participate in sports.
Flexible schedules have allowed students to better express their creativity. Using block schedules to offer enrichment programs in the arts, sports, engineering, or other areas would give students flexibility in their schedules while keeping them engaged and learning.
Studies show that students who participate in enrichment programs can better retain knowledge and go further academically.
Because of the pandemic, I have gained many new skills. I know that having the same flexibility post-pandemic, I’ll be able to gain even more talents and develop my creativity. Officials at SUHSD should rethink going back to a “normal” school schedule.