If you were to talk to the people who run Portland Public Schools about whether they care about the well being of students, chances are they’d say they are doing everything they can.
But if you look at the class schedule imposed on students by PPS and compare it to scientific research on the sleep needs of teenagers, you might wonder if such claims are sincere.
According to the National Sleep Foun- dation, teenagers need roughly nine hours of sleep a night. But a two-hour shift in Circadian rhythms caused by pu- berty makes it hard for teenagers to fall asleep before 11 p.m.
So to achieve the right amount of sleep for the best health, high schoolers should be waking up at 8 a.m. However, this is nearly impossible for students to accomplish, because Lincoln and all oth- er Portland Public high schools start at 8:10.
Not getting the recommended hours of sleep a night has harmful effects on the brain and body. Noticeable short- term effects include decline in atten- tiveness and mental health including depression. Lack of sleep affects how we perform in areas like reaction time, but also hurts us physically. It is less likely that you will reach sleep stage 4, when essential muscle repair occurs, the later you go to bed.
Lincoln principal Peyton Chapman said that the PPS School Board, which controls scheduling, is aware of these harmful effects that lack of sleep has on PPS’ students, but that the start time can’t change for a number of reasons, one of them being school sports.
“Lincoln has nine different levels of athletes all from different sports that we must accommodate in one gym and field, on top of that they all want two hour practices,” said Chapman.
The lack of space has some students arriving for practice before school at 5:45 a.m. and some leaving school at 11 at night.
Sophomore Jordyn Scott dances for Lincoln and sometimes doesn’t leave school until as late as 9:45 p.m. when basketball runs over time.
“I dance, because I love it and it helps me as a person, but it doesn’t help me as a student,” says Scott. Scott is often tired in class, because by the time she gets home and finishes homework she’s not getting in bed until midnight, at best.
Scott also said that the lack of sleep that she gets from the late practice ac- companied by the 8:10 a.m. start time makes it nearly impossible for her to perform her best at practice.
To accommodate all the athletes, Lin- coln must start at 8:10 so that the last practice can finish before city curfew. When the idea of cutting down on the levels of teams so that there would be fewer groups needing practice was pro- posed, Chapman disagreed.
“With 1,700 kids, it’s already hard just to make the 3V and if we take that away kids have more opportunity to get into trouble after school,” she said.
She believes sports are a vital part of student mental and physical health and that they keep kids balanced.
Lincoln’s assistant athletic director and head football coach, Wes Warren, agrees. He says that people often come to him with teens who have gotten into trouble and try to get them onto teams. By practicing a sport and working out for two hours after school everyday, it keeps students busy and out of trouble, because by the time practice is over they are just going to want to go home.
Playing sports also helps create a scheduled routine. For the kids who join that commonly skip school or do poorly in class, Warren often sees attendance and grades go up when struggling students join a team, because it forces them to have time management skills.
However, Warren also understands that student-athletes are naturally at a disadvantage, because they lose home- work time after school and end up stay- ing up late, but he still believes the sense of accomplishment and self esteem that come from playing sports is more bene- ficial than sleep health.
While sports are a life-changing skill, lack of sleep is also life-changing.
A study of 28,000 high schoolers published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence showed that every hour later a teenager stayed up was associated with a 38 percent increase in the feeling of hopelessness and a 58 percent increase in the chance of a suicide attempt.
To this, Chapman offered the option of a late arrival. Some students are grant- ed gifted “Late arrival” instead of having a first period. This is mainly used by se- niors and juniors who have fewer required courses, but also occasionally by under- classmen. It is only afforded in special oc- casions, because it does set students back by a credit per year.
As far as how this loss of a credit af- fects college opportunities, Chapman re- sponded, “everyone can get into college, but only if you’re alive to get there.”
Lincoln’s practices running so late comes from the issue of lack of facili- ties. Some schools in the PPS district have up to three gyms and two fields. Lincoln has one of each. Our school was built for 900 and there is no space in the downtown community to extend our sports facilities. The girls’ lacrosse teams currently travel out to Delta Park, in North Portland, for practice, because Lincoln simply does not have the space. Without a pool the swim team must wait until later in the evening to share the Multnomah Athletic Club’s facilities.
Even if this problem is solved with the bond to re-building the school passing in May, Lincoln will be down to just a gymnasium for several years to hold all sports practices for several years, as the new school will be constructed where the field currently sits until a new facil- ity that can accommodate all the sports teams after school lets out is built.
An 8:10 start time, which prevents stu- dents from achieving a full night’s rest, is partially kept in place so students can participate in sports. So, the many stu- dents who don’t participate in sports are still affected even though they don’t benefit practice from it. Which is truly more beneficial to total student health and development: school sports for Lin- coln’s student-athletes, or more neces- sary sleep for all students?