The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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A shorter school day

Photo via Adobe Stock
For many students, good sleep is hard to come by, and school start times, as well as the length of school days may have something to do with that.

You wake up in the morning one day to wonderful news: you have been accepted into Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This means a lot to you, as you have always had a passion for academic sciences, and you’re very excited for the coming school year and the overall high school experience. 

Then you attend orientation. 

You are struck with a harsh reality: the commute to Jefferson is almost an hour each way, and even more for some of your peers, and you will have to endure this commute almost daily for four years. 

For most adults, the commute is a substantial consideration when choosing a job. Commuting plus working hours makes for a long day. Jefferson students are still able to choose to attend their neighborhood school and have a shorter commute, but this is a relatively unappealing option in comparison to attending one of the highest-rated schools in the United States.

 Jefferson students typically face very long commutes due to the wide catchment area and long distances.  Many commute two or more hours a day. While many students utilize the commute time for a variety of activities, such as listening to music, socializing, reading and completing homework, they still feel that the effects they experience can be ameliorated via a change in school policy regarding start time. 

If Jefferson starts later, long commutes would be easier. There’s no easy way to get kids from far away neighborhoods to Jefferson faster without big changes, but pushing the start time would let all students get better sleep and better grades by extension.

However, this still wouldn’t completely fix the issue, as a later start to school also means a later end of day, assuming that the amount of school hours remains the same. This might reduce the amount of time students can stay outdoors and engage in necessary physical activities before nightfall. In the end, students will have the same amount of time out of school. In fact, an argument could even be made to make school start slightly earlier, allowing students to have an earlier dismissal and enjoy more daylight hours.

The only way to effectively solve this issue is to make the school day, as a whole, shorter. Shorter school days are effective. For example, Singapore, which is considered a world leader in education as per the PISA assessment, has a 5.5 hour school day, significantly less than the 6.8 hour school day in the United States. This shorter school day comes with a variety of benefits, such as classes being shorter and fitting students’ attention spans better, allowing them to focus more intensely during class, as well as the school day being less of a daily marathon which leaves students exhausted when they get home. If students have an earlier end of the day, it gives them more time to rest, providing additional energy to pursue extracurricular activities. More rest time can also allow students’ brains to process information and help overall retention since downtime helps the brain retain information learned from various experiences.

There are downsides to shorter school days, such as less teacher-student interaction time, as well as an increased burden on parents since students will be at home for longer periods of time. However, these circumstances may be negligible in comparison to the sweeping academic benefits statistically associated with a shorter school day and more streamlined lesson planning.

Students, parents and educators want a later start to school, and it’s a sentiment that has been echoed quite commonly in recent years, but they are not considering a shorter school day. The trend of extending the school day and lengthening the school calendar has become so prevalent that it makes a shorter school day seem out of reach. 

Shortening the school day is a change that could usher in beneficial changes for Jefferson students specifically, FCPS and the national school system as a whole.

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