later start times announced for 2019-2020 year

Henri Robbins | Staff Writer

Students are tired of being tired, and administration is addressing it.

On Monday, January 11th, at the Mason CommUNITY Conversation, Superintendent Jonathan Cooper announced plans to move start times at Mason High School from 7:15 to 7:45.

During the meeting, Cooper outlined two different plans to incorporate the new start time, one of which involves multiple start times for Mason Elementary, and the other only having one time for all of Mason Elementary (grades 3-6). Students from both Mason Middle School and Mason High School, including members of the MHS Hope Squad, a group dedicated to mental health awareness and suicide prevention, talked about the benefits of a later start time. Sophomore Ryan Griffith, a Hope Squad member, said he feels the change will benefit the student body.

“I definitely do think starting later will have a positive impact on students’ mental health,” Griffith said. “There was a study done at the University of Rochester where, just by starting school later, they noticed the numbers of students with depression and anxiety dropped a lot. It wasn’t a full solution, but it was a step.”

Even though the main purpose of a later start time is to improve mental health, Hope Squad member Kevin Tang said that he simply wants to get more sleep.

“I’ve noticed in myself and other students that no matter when we finish our work or completed all of our responsibilities, we usually almost always sleep at the same time,” Tang said. “Let’s say, for example, I finish all of my homework by 8:00. It’s still hard for me to even fall asleep or even commit to going to sleep before 11:30, so I think that extending the time that we start school gives students more flexibility and allows students to get more sleep.”

The later start time is meant to increase the school’s focus on student health. During the meeting, they cited studies from Hanover Research, which showed that students were able to gain anywhere from 25 to 77 additional minutes of sleep every night with this new plan.

“If we take the 30 minutes, it starts to have a huge impact on the rest of our environment and our schedule,” Cooper said. “30 minutes over a week is 150 minutes of quality time, 600 minutes over a month, and 5400 minutes over a school year, or 90 hours. So the impact seems small at the beginning, and begins to add up over time.”

Cooper acknowledged that students would have less time after school for sports and extracurriculars, and said that he has not made any across-the-board plans to improve workloads, but also said that he wants to see the change begin to happen.

“One of the conversations I hope comes out of tonight is the level of homework that we’re giving and making sure that our homework is the right homework. So, not just the amount, but the quality. Maybe we can take a look at that as well, because I think that is a factor in mental health.”

While the initial plan was to move the start time forward to 8:30, Cooper said that far too many issues arose.

“It starts to ripple so many things,” Cooper said. “It ripples beyond just Mason City Schools but into all of the other schools that we interact with after school. So we said ‘okay, let’s step back, and let’s look at what we could do with 30 minutes.’ We start there, we make a commitment to that.”

Along with that, Cooper said that other changes to student schedules are still preliminary and that, although the schedules given to teachers are final drafts, they will not be put into effect without student input beforehand.

“Students are the first group we would go to,” Cooper said. “As soon as we know that there’s enough buy-in from the rest of the adults, because I don’t want to say, ‘hey give me your feedback’ and then we don’t do anything. I want to be like, ‘we’re really serious about this, what do you think?’ And then we start to get feedback from students right away. I would assume that would be February at the lastest, because we’ll probably get the answers to this first.”

Although the changes to student schedules are not definitive yet, Cooper said that he hopes that they are able to make their way to the students and work to create a positive change in the school.

“Well, we’re going to make an attempt to take a step no matter what,” Cooper said. “I’m going to do my best to take a step because I believe it’s right for kids. That I will commit to, and if I can make this a step, in terms of the start time, then I’m going to because I think it’s best for kids.”