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Vol. 48 No. 11

Cherry Hill High School East: 1750 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003

June 2014

Sleep and School Start Time Special

The Survey In March, 320 East students – approximately 15% of the student body – were surveyed about sleep and school start time. The surveyed population consisted of 74 freshmen, 64 sophomores, 75 juniors, 78 seniors and 29 students who did not specify their grade level. The survey was distributed in homerooms, health classes and study halls so as to ensure a random sampling of students. The results demonstrate many strong trends in students’ sleep habits, sleep deprivation, and opinions about the change in school start time. On the survey, many students also shared their thoughts and opinions in written comments. The statistical results of the survey, as well as written quotes from students, are presented throughout this publication.

By Gilana Levavi (‘14)

Eastside Opinions Editor

Looking in on almost any class at East, glaring evidence of sleep deprivation is all around, as students yawn and stretch, prop their heads up, and squirm in their seats, all in an arduous struggle to simply stay awake. About two-thirds of students reported losing that struggle (by falling asleep in class) at least once in the five days prior to taking the sleep and school start time survey. According to the National Sleep Foundation, teens need between 8.5 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night to function best. Nationwide, only about 15 percent of students report sleeping 8.5 hours on weekdays. At East, the numbers are more extreme. Just 3.1 percent of East students report sleeping 8-9 hours on school nights, with no student reporting 9 or more hours. Included on the survey was an adapted version of a test for sleep deprivation, based on symptoms, and

developed by Dr. James happens throughout the Maas, globally-recognized body during sleep as well. sleep expert. According to “Sleep is not optional this test, 98.4 percent of when it comes to your East students are sleephealth,” said Mrs. Sheri deprived. Orlando, who teaches Sleep deprivation at about sleep in the psyEast is a health crisis, chology courses at East. which, especially when “Sleep is just as important compared with national as exercising and eating statistics on both fronts, is right and taking your vitamuch more mins.” significant Being Sleep is a than any acdeprived ademic defiof sleep basic human cit that could has propossibly be need, in the same f o u n d r e m e d i e d way as food, water i m p a c t s by adding 5 on daily and shelter. minutes to functioneach class. ing. Sleep Sleep is a basic human deprivation causes difficulneed, in the same way as ties in focusing and manfood, water and shelter. aging mood. It decreases Without it, over time, the reaction time and impairs body and mind cannot coordination. It suppressfunction. es the immune system and When we sleep, critical results in weight gain. processes occur within our “[Sleep is] not something brains and bodies. During that you get to do when sleep, the brain strengthyou finish everything else,” ens important neural consaid Orlando. “It should nections, and prunes away take a priority in your life unneeded ones, playing because a crucial role in learning, it’s memory and decisionmaking, skills especially important to students. Much growth and repair

very important to your overall health, and the management of your stress, and a lot of the things that we do to keep ourselves healthy. Sleep is integral in that process.” Yet it is difficult for teens to prioritize sleep when they are required to be in school at 7:30 a.m. Teens tend to stay up very late – at East, 62.6 percent of report going to sleep after 11 p.m. on school nights, with about 20 percent of that group (12.5 percent of the population as a whole) going to bed after 1 a.m. – and that is largely not by personal choice. In addition to societal demands, such as school, extracurriculars and jobs, which influence when teens sleep, two biological factors also control when we sleep. First, sleep-wake homeostasis means that the longer one has been awake, the more pressure there is to sleep. Second, Circadian rhythms are daily internal biological cycles that control our sleep cycle through the release of such hormones as melatonin, which induces sleep, and See SLEEP, pg. 2

All articles in this publication are by Gilana Levavi (‘14)/ Eastside Opinions Editor

Note: tion This publica e th contains s, si analy , commentary s n and opinio of its writer.

Sleepy Scholar art by Rachel Pacitti (‘15)/ Eastside Art Director Clock and thumbtacks by Gilana Levavi (‘14)/ Eastside Opinions Editor Woodgrain on desk courtesy of cpsfoil.com


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Push back school start time for students to get needed sleep

“I don’t feel awake until close to 9:00 a.m., the morning classes are a blur and pointless.” Sarah Birchmeier (‘14)

Continued from pg. 1 cortisol, which is associated with wakefulness. Research demonstrates that in adolescents, both the onset and termination of melatonin is delayed, making it natural for the average adolescent to go to sleep after 11 p.m. and still be sleepy throughout the morning. For people of most ages, levels of cortisol peak in the morning, and then decline as the day goes on. In adolescents, however, cortisol levels vary much less throughout the day, another biological explanation for the sleepiness teens feel in the morning and the weaker pressure to sleep that they experience in the evening. Though people may have different chronotypes, or time-ofday preferences,(e.g. being a “morning person”), these changes in adolescent Circadian rhythms makes teens much more likely to favor later times. “Their brain doesn’t really … want to be awake and functioning at 7:30 in the morning,” said Mrs. Grace Ermey, East psychology teacher. Although, as Orlando pointed out, the extra half hour is not necessarily making students sleep-deprived, it is certainly contributing to their cumulative sleep deprivation.

“It is affecting the health of students and having a negative impact on academic performance.” Anonymous (‘15) “I don’t think more class time is necessary since we still learn the material no matter how much time we have.” Christian Termine (‘17) “By increasing the school day, you may have increased class time by a few minutes, but you’re putting the health of students at risk. We end up not concentrating in class and falling asleep doing homework.” Bernadette Davis (‘16) “This year I have had to stay up later due to commitments and jobs and lack of sleep has impacted almost everything in my life.” Noah (‘14) “The early start time has had a noticeable detrimental effect on all students. Barely anyone fell asleep during class last year, but this year it is a common theme.” Marisa Camacho (‘15)

Benefits of starting later The alternative to forcing teens to be in school at times when they are biologically programmed to be sleeping? Start school later. There is a nationwide movement to do just this. In February, University

of Minnesota’s Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement released the results of a study on the Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students. The report examined eight public high schools, in three different states, that pushed back their start times. Researchers surveyed students about their sleep and lifestyle habits, and gathered data on academic performance and attendance from before and after the change. The study found significant improvements in academic performance and attendance rates in schools that delayed their start times to 8:35 a.m. or later. When one school shifted its start time from 7:35 a.m. to 8:55 a.m., the number of car crashes for teen drivers in the area decreased by 70 percent. And in schools that moved their start times to 8:30 or later, more than 60 percent of students have been able to sleep for at least 8 hours per night, resulting in increased alertness, improved mood and overall better health. It seems that a surer way to improve academic performance is not to make school start earlier, but to make it start later. For healthier, even more successful schools, Cherry Hill should push our high school start times back, ideally to 8:30 or later, but at least past 8 a.m. Although some believe that effects of sleep deprivation are not as severe in high-achieving students, research shows benefits for all demographics when start times are delayed.

Though there would be logistical challenges involved in delaying our high school start time, many other schools have successfully done so. A large obstacle is transportation, as the District uses the same buses for elementary, middle and high school routes. The idea of reversing the order in which each level of school opens should be considered, for example, starting elementary school at 8:00 a.m., middle school at 8:30, and high school at 9. This would likely make the high school day end at about 3:30, just the time of day when teens’ energy levels tend to crash. Elementary school children typically go to sleep earlier and wake up earlier, so coming to school earlier would not contradict their biological programming. Another challenge is sports schedules. Practice times could be adjusted. But, because many of the schools East competes against end school and start sports much earlier than 3:30, athletes would likely have to miss class often to attend away games. Perhaps an optional “zeroperiod” could be held before school, beginning at 8 a.m., so student-athletes, and others, could opt to take a class then rather than a period late in the afternoon. Though there would undeniably be challenges involved in delaying high school start times, the challenges that sleep-deprived students face on a daily basis far out-weigh these logistical challenges. Cherry Hill needs to make a concerted effort to make the school schedule healthier for all.

June 2014

“The school has a different vibe from last year – it’s noticeable. It’s like people aren’t as happy / full of energy anymore.” Nancy Zheng (‘15) “It is a proven fact that teenagers need more sleep and have different sleep cycles so I don’t understand why we start so early.” Jenna Simons (‘17) “I think the extra half hour added this year was necessary because the loss of class time last year was too great. However, school should start at 8 or even later, because it is proven that teenagers do not function well in the early morning while younger kids do.” Elisabeth Siegel (‘14) “I always struggle to stay focused for the entire hour or hour and a half; a shorter class time would keep me focused.” Vince Guckin (‘16) “Even though it is important to have extra time in classes, if this extra half hour is having a negative effect [on] students’ grades, it should be changed before students feel more stressed, tired and lazy.” Adriana Rivera (‘17)

Survey shows trends in students’ sleep habits



k ee

NO 5.5%


YES 94.5%



Less 4-5 5-6 6-7 Number of than 4




9 or more

Grade 12

Grade 10

No Grade Specified Grade 11

Grade 9

After 2 a.m.

Between 1 a.m and 2 a.m.

s nd

Between 12 a.m and 1 a.m.





rt t p ee s? ar


t the change in tha sc l ee caused you to get le hoo u s did in previou s s l s s y sl a h ou e y n


Between 11 p.m. and 12 a.m.


Less 4-5 5-6 6-7 7-8 8-9 9 than 4 Number of Hours or more


Between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m.


- 3.1 percent of students sleep for 8-9 hours on school nights. On weekends, that number is 27.2 percent.


Between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.




Before 9 p.m.




Number of Students



-On weekends, 38.8 percent of students sleep for nine hours or more per night. On school nights, no student reported sleeping for nine hours or more.

What time do you usually go to bed on school nights?


Number of Students


Number of Students




-12.5 percent of students report going to bed after 1 a.m. on school nights.

D timo yo tha e f a

On average, how many hours of sleep do you get... 120

Alarm clock art by Helena Sirken (‘15)/ Eastside Art Director Graphs by Gilana Levavi (‘14)/ Eastdide Opinions Editor

June 2014


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A look at the process that led to a longer school day

The process that eventually resulted in the change in school start time began earlier than 2010. At that time, a schedule committee of administrators and teachers, and eventually a few students, formed to analyze the way in which time was used during the high school day and investigate more efficient ways to use that time. Until September 2012, the schedule at Cherry Hill high schools had consisted of 8 periods, which met for 44 minutes each, every day in the same order, with a 6-minute homeroom at the beginning of the day, and 4 minutes’ passing time between classes. Lunch was optional, and filled a

44-minute daily time block noticed the length of the in the same way that any day at other schools. They other class did. Lab sciencrealized that Cherry Hill es met an extra period once had the shortest day of all every five school days, with schools across New Jersey. students labbing out of a “Then we began those dislunch period, study hall, or cussions [about] what ...othelective class that met dier schools [were] able to do rectly before or after their with their schedules that regular science period. we didn’t think we could do, Then, beginning in 2010, realizing that some of them teams of had much more “Adding time onto the time,” said Rea d m i n i s t r a t o r s day cannot be a decision usche. and teach- that Administration makes She said that ers visited alone.” -Dr. Reusche the addition of various high schools with thirty minutes to the school schedules different from day was not a direct rethe one in place at East. sult of or a response to the The national school schedblock scheduling which was uling consultant Michael implemented the year beRettig was also hired. fore. Though both changes Through these visits, originated around the same Reusche said, the teams time, as a result of the same

analysis and site visits, the timing of the implementation, she said, was merely due to the timing needed to get the extra 30 minutes into the teachers’ contract. “Adding time onto that day cannot be a decision that Administration makes alone,” said Reusche, citing the labor negotiations that had to take place between the school district and CHEA – Cherry Hill Education Association – the teachers’ union. Any change that would affect employees’ working conditions – such as the hours that they work – needs to be implemented via a change in the teachers’ contract. CHEA representatives

negotiate on behalf of District employees, ensuring that their needs are addressed, without requiring each employee to be directly involved in the process. Among East staff, for example, there are 10 union representatives, throughout different departments, who, during the contract negotiation process, met with Reusche and a committee of school board members, reported back to the union members they represent, and gathered union members’ opinions on the matters being negotiated. When a contract agreement was reached, the planned change in school start time was disclosed to the public.

sions about extending the school day. Yet, the addition of a half hour to the beginning of the school day is a change that affects much more than teachers’ work schedules. It has a profound impact on students’ lives as well. Therefore, it was unfair to exclude students from voicing their opinions during the process of deciding to extend the school day. Indeed, the public need not be involved in working out the intricate details of the teachers’ contract. But prior to the initiation of these private and specific negotiations, or even during the same time, but outside of those private meetings and about the general idea of lengthening the school day, the input of students, parents and the public at large could have and should have been sought and expressed. To ensure that adding time to the school day was the

cause each bargaining unit represents a larger population – for example, CHEA represents its membersand continually reports back to that population on the discussions that occurred in closed-door negotiations meetings, to gather their opinions. “I think that a lot of people knew that the discussions were ongoing, but, once they started, I think that there was this air of caution to make sure that false information, rumors didn’t start leaking out,” said Mr. Tom Rosenberg, a CHEA representative. But a more effective way to prevent rumors would be to engage the public in voicing opinions about the general idea of extending the day, and then make it clear that private union negotiations would also have to take place. Reusche said that there were some parents on an initial committee to dis-

cuss scheduling, but that they barely discussed adding time to the day. “It was not a lengthy discussion, because everybody knew that it was something that would have to be part of a negotiations process, so they didn’t spend a lot of time talking about it within that committee,” said Reusche. CHEA serves the incredibly important role of protecting the rights of teachers and other school staff. But its purpose is not to prevent other constituents, such as students, from voicing their opinions. It is problematic that in the case of adding 30 minutes to the school day, the necessity of union negotiations largely limited the ability of the public to give input. For the future, this needs to be amended to allow all who would be affected by a change of this nature to voice their opinions in an appropriate manner.

Students and public should have been involved in process When the change to 7:30 a.m. start time was anounced in November 2012, many students were taken by surprise. According to a District statement released around that time, both the District bargaining committee, and the Union’s bargaining unit, agreed at their first meeting to keep all matters discussed strictly confidential. This confidentiality is standard in collective bargaining in New Jersey as well as many other, but not all, states. The purpose is to ensure that the bargaining process can occur effectively between the two parties, without outside interference. As Dr. Reusche said, “When you are negotiating, you cannot take your topics for negotiations and go out and seek input.” For this reason, she said, the public, including students and parents, could not be involved in discus-

best decision for the overall benefit of all whom it affects, students and parents should have been given the opportunity to express their opinions in an organized and effective manner. For example, a survey could have been conducted, in the same way that School Climate Surveys are conducted periodically, to find out what students think of the school day length, start time, schedule, and more. More people could have come to school board meetings, written to board members and spoken out. Though ample time was given between the announcement of the change in November 2012 and its implementation the following September, there is little value in this time if, at the time of the announcement, it is too late for the public to have any impact. As it is, strict confidentiality in negotiations can be difficult to maintain, be-

Rather than class time, add more learning experiences

Students The major driving force behind the push to add more time to the school day seems to be the belief that more class time is beneficial. “If I could add more instructional time to the student day, I would,” said Reusche. “There’s nothing magical about 30 minutes…any time that I can create more opportunities for students and teachers to be able to interact, then I will look to take advantage of that.” Though this idea seems logical enough, many do not subscribe to it. First, the idea that more class time helps education contrasts sharply with the views of the East student body. When asked on the sleep and school start time survey whether increasing class time enhances their academic performance and improves their education, 89% of students responded “no”. As one anonymous junior wrote on the survey, “I feel that if the added time is appropriately used, then the increase in class time is beneficial. Overall, however, I feel the increase has not benefitted me.” According to a study on The Impact of Learning Time on Academic Achievements, conducted in 2011 by California State University in Sacramento, “The relationship between just the time allocated to learning and student academic outcomes – without controls for the effective the use of that time – remains unclear.” Split across 6 academic classes on schedule days 1-4, and 4 classes on days 5 and 6, the added half hour adds only 5 minutes to each class on schedule days 1-4, and about 8 minutes on schedule days 5 and 6, a negligible amount of time, especially when students can barely focus anyway due to drowsiness. At the most highly respected educational institutions in this country – colleges and universities – students attend class for 12-15 hours per week. Our current high school schedule, with school in session for 7 hours per day 5 days a week, means we spend 35 hours in school every week. Even accounting for approximately one hour of lunch/break every day, and a few minutes in between classes, East scholars spend almost twice as much time in class per week than the average college student. If the number of hours spent in class is such an important factor, then


why are institutions in which students spend such a small amount of time in class so prestigious? In colleges and universities, rather than spending 7 hours in class every day, students split their time among more diverse kinds of learning. For example, college students often attend some large lecture classes, but also small discussion sections. They study in peer groups, meet with professors one-on-one, perform research, participate in extracurriculars. All of these different kinds of learning that one student can experience in college produces a welleducated, adaptable person, to a degree that sitting through 7 hours of similarly-structured classes cannot. Though it would be impractical to suggest that high school could be structured like typical universities, with all of the independence that structure allows for, the value of exposure to diverse kinds of learning holds true for all ages. Rather than using half an hour per day to just add a negligible few minutes of desk time to each class, it would be much more beneficial for students to devote those 2.5 extra hours per week to service learning, or to a research project, or even to an already-existing extracurricular activity. A set of options and guidelines about how this time can be used could be developed. Then each student, working with his/ her guidance counselor and teachers, would come up with a plan decide how they wanted to use that time. They could choose to spend their hours at any time of the day – not just 7:30 a.m. Guidance counselors or faculty advisors would approve each student’s plan, and throughout the year, monitor the student and enforce the guidelines. This one-on-one interaction between students and teachers would be more impactful than another few minutes of in-class teacher-student interaction. The amount of time, on paper, that school is in session is insignificant when compared with the way in which that time is used. It is not the quantity of time that students spend interacting with teachers, but the quality of those interactions that really matters. Rather than using those 2.5 hours per week to just slap a few more minutes onto each class, empower students to turn those hours into learning experiences that they will remember forever.

en h an

YES 11%

NO 89%

ce an ?

that increasing cla l e e m u f s your acade ic perfoss ti o y o ncemproves your educat rm me ion D a i d


June 2014


“I don’t see any difference in how much or how well I’m learning with the extra half hour. It is only more stressful because we are hard-working students tiring ourselves out and not getting enough sleep.” Rachel Palitto (‘16) “I feel like 30 more minutes in school was added for no reason. And we really only have 5 or 6 minutes extra in class which we use to get ready for our next class.” Anonymous (‘17) “Changing the start time only makes me wake up earlier... it’s not like I have any time to go to bed earlier.” Rachel Vetesi (‘14) “Sleep deprivation is increasing and worsening, especially with the earlier start time.” Anonymous (‘15) “I find it hard to concentrate sometimes in class due to tiredness, especially in the morning.” Dylan Clark (‘16) “Maybe East students would be more attractive if we got more sleep.” Tyler Gamble (‘14) “The extra half hour is unnecessary.” Emma Myer (‘17) “The earlier school start time has made school way less enjoyable and going to school is a hassle every single day. We should go back to the old schedule, before block scheduling, and start at 8 a.m.” Anonymous (‘15) “There are more cons than pros.” Jacob Ropka (‘17) “Sleep is really important and teenagers need the most of it.” Jess Levine (‘16)

Survey reveals students’ views 4.4 percent see the change to 7:30 a.m. school start time as positive. 81.6 percent see it as negative, and 14 percent see it as neither positive nor negative.

70 percent of students would prefer an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. school day over 7:30 to 2:30.

+ 0:30 96 percent do not believe that adding an extra half hour was necessary.

What do you believe is the effect of the earlier school start time on the health and well-being of East students? BENEFICIAL 2.2%

Do you feel that you get enough sleep?



NO: 89.4%

YES: 10.6%

How many times have you fallen asleep in class during the past 5 school days?

Do you believe that the reduction of instructional time that occurred when the rotating block schedule was implemented had a detrimental impact on your education? YES: 15.6 % NO: 24.7% 16.6 percent of students need to be home at a certain time after school to care for younger siblings.

Never: 33.1% Once: 24.7% 2-3 times: 23.8% More than 3 times: 16.2%

To view more student quotes, click HERE. Balance and School Bus art by Helena Sirken (‘15)/ Eastside Art Director Sleepy Scholar art by Rachel Pacitti (‘15)/ Eastside Art Director

Links to articles and sources - The New York Times: “To Keep Teenagers Alert, Schools Let Them Sleep In” - SJ Magazine: “Totally too Early!” - SleepandSchoolStartTime.org - University of Minnesota Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement - “Impact of Later High School Start Times on the Health and Academic Performance of High School Students” - NationalSleepFoundation.org - HealthySleep.Med.Harvard.edu: How Awake Are You?

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“Although I have trouble waking up, it is not a result of the early 7:30 start time. I had the same amount of difficulty when the start time was 8:00. Also, I stay up until 11:30 pm or 12 am by choice, not as a consequence of schoolwork.” Aaron Goldberg (‘14) “The extra half hour makes a big difference. It’s the little things that go a long way. Lack of sleep makes students miserable.” Alexa Beatty (‘16) “... A lot of my friends often sleep less than 2 hours or [get] no sleep at all. How do teachers expect us to concentrate when we are running on no sleep?” Federica Sul (‘17) “I don’t get enough sleep so I become physically, emotionally and mentally tired.” Anonynmous (‘16) “Adding an entire extra half hour to the school day only added a few extra minutes in each class. Not enough time to have any significant improvement to education. It has, however, decreased the amount of time for sleep and leaves students no time for breakfast. Sleep deprivation and not eating breakfast has a much larger negative impact on education that an extra few minutes in each class. Classes later in the day also suffer from student burnout.” Ryan Boyle (‘15) “The early start time has made it more difficult to take advantage of early morning reviews.” Temuulen Gansukh (‘14) “I would [write a comment], but I’m too tired.” Anonymous (‘15)

Agree? Disagree? Eastside welcomes comments on on this Sleep and School Start Time Special.

CLICK HERE to submit a comment. Please note that all comments will be moderated prior to publication.

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Profile for Eastside Newspaper

Eastside Sleep and School Start Time Special  

Eastside Opinions Editor Gilana Levavi ('14)'s research culminates in four pages of features and commentary about the new school start time...

Eastside Sleep and School Start Time Special  

Eastside Opinions Editor Gilana Levavi ('14)'s research culminates in four pages of features and commentary about the new school start time...