By Hae Jin Kang, 15, Granada Hills charter HS
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Illustration by Hae Jin Kang, 15, Granada Hills Charter HS

"Jenny, wake up," my friend Jessica Kim says during first period English. "Test is almost over! She’s going to collect it soon. Did you even finish it?"

"Hmm. Five more minutes," I mumble back, a little annoyed by her elbow nudging me. "Just five more minutes… WHAT? Test is almost over? What are you talking about? We just started!"

I look up at the clock, and to my dismay, it’s 8:31 a.m.! Two more minutes before the bell rings. I must’ve fallen asleep during the test.

"OK, class, time’s up," says my English teacher, Mrs. Steurer. "Pass up your papers to the front."

Oh no! I didn’t even finish half my essay test on Crime and Punishment! As I turn my test in, the bell rings.

During my next class, biology, I can’t even keep my head up. It looks like at least half a dozen of my 32 classmates are feeling just as I am. Weary. I can even hear snoring.

But this fairly common scene is not entirely our fault. School starting at 7:36 a.m. is way too early for us—and that’s why we sometimes fall asleep in class, even if many students do load up on coffee or soda. Occasionally there’s a student who sleeps in class on purpose, because he or she doesn’t feel like learning. And sometimes students procrastinate and pull an all-nighter. But that’s not true for everyone! Many students often find themselves staying up late just doing their homework. I always try to go to sleep before midnight since I wake up at 6 a.m.

Dr. Kathryn Reid of Northwestern University said that many adolescents don’t get enough sleep, according to research I found. The average adolescent should sleep nine to nine-and-a-half hours.

I have a jam-packed schedule with AP classes, volunteering and studying. I don’t have a lot of time left to do the things I love. I even had to give up piano in high school, because I didn’t have time to practice.

Some of my other friends are even busier than I am. My friend Eunice takes SAT classes and has tutoring every day. And, she also has piano and violin lessons. So by the time school starts, we’re worn out from yesterday’s exhausting day. But many teachers just don’t understand.

"Everyone, pick up your heads off your desks right now," our biology teacher, Mr. McLaughlin, told our class once this spring. "I expect more from you guys. You guys are high school honor students. There will be no sleeping in my class."

This time it was my turn to wake up Jessica. With a quick jolt, I elbowed my friend in her ribs.

"What," said Jessica with a cranky groan. "Don’t bother me, Jenny."

"Jessica, just wake up!"

Compared to the wrath of other teachers, who give out detentions or send you to the dean’s office for sleeping in class, Mr. McLaughlin let my friend off with a simple warning.

While writing this article, I asked my friends their opinions.

"I have zero period for swim team and every day I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to get to the Porter Ranch Community Pool by 5," Jessica said. "If school starts later, zero period would also start later and I could get more sleep. I always [go to] sleep before 11 and I still fall asleep in class sometimes."

Students aren’t the only ones who feel school should start later. Last spring a committee of teachers and other staff members proposed starting school at 7:56 a.m. rather than 7:36. It would end at 2:56 p.m. instead of 2:34. The proposed schedule also would have had longer passing periods and eliminated nutrition. However, extending passing periods and removing nutrition caused a conflict. Teachers thought it was unnecessary to have longer passing periods, and students agreed.

"You don’t need 10 minutes to walk from one class to another," said sophomore Audrey Marcado. "If you’re determined to get to class to learn and be on time, you will get there, no matter what."

We also refused to give up nutrition. In the end the committee decided not to put the schedule into effect.

Oh well, so much for sleeping

When I heard we wouldn’t be using the proposed schedule, I was very disappointed. It would have allowed me to get more rest, and I still could have taken AP classes at Pierce Community College after school. Without the new schedule I probably still won’t be getting enough sleep during my last three years at Granada.

But some students don’t mind the school schedule as it is.

"I’d rather spend my after-school hours studying rather than starting school later and ending school later," Audrey said.

If school started later, school would also end later, which means after-school activities would also end later. Although I want school to start later, I don’t want to stop taking AP classes at Pierce. And with a later ending time, when would I fit in the volunteering I do at Kaiser Permanente and the library? Lastly, I already have hardly any time for things I like to do, such as shopping, going out with friends, watching movies and reading. If school ended later, I’d probably have even less time for these things.

So changing the time school starts might not be so good for me or for other students who have music lessons, art classes and part-time jobs.

During my first few weeks of school this year, I wanted school to start later. But in the end, although it may take a little bit more effort on my behalf to stay awake during class, I wouldn’t want to give up all the other things in my life. I guess this schedule is not as bad as I thought.