Bring back late start days to the Upper School

An interview with Mr. Forrester reveals the potential future of late start days.



This image shows the time that students would be arriving for late start days.

Alyson Folkens, Staff Writer

At the beginning of the 2020 school year, the Saint Stephen’s Upper School experimented with late start days. On these days, the first bell would ring an hour later, at 9:00 am, so students had the opportunity to sleep in another hour. 

On those late-start mornings, all I remember is having breakfast with my sister, calmly driving to school, and feeling rested throughout the day. That year, there were three late start days before the pandemic hit. So my question is: in the past three years, why hasn’t Saint Stephen’s brought the casual mornings back? 

I spoke with Upper School Director Mr. Forrester to find out more about the potential future of the late start initiative. 

Forrester started with me where the idea came from. Every year, the Upper School’s Advanced Placement Language and Composition classes present an idea to strengthen the Saint Stephen’s campus to the Head of School and division directors, and each year, one of those presented ideas is chosen to follow through on.

One of the 2018 AP Lang classes “looked at research from different studies and it became very clear that teenagers perform better when they start later in the day.” Dr. Pullen enjoyed and agreed with their presentation, so Mr. Forrester and Mrs. Conn “selected some days in the year that [they] felt the high school could do a late start, with the option of being here at 8 o’clock for people who took school transportation.” 

When the late start days went into action, students loved it.

Forrester said, “Some people would delay their alarm clocks by an hour and have an extra hour of sleep,” while others would get up at their normal time, “but wouldn’t have to rush so they could enjoy their breakfast.” 

No matter how students used the extra hour of relaxation, most were able to use it to their benefit. Mr. Forrester even remembers a ok“slightly different atmosphere on campus,” and recalls students feeling more rested, “even though it was just an hour.” 

So if the student body reacted so positively to the incorporation of late start days, why did they stop happening? Apparently there were a lot of concerns. 

Saint Stephen’s is known for its academic rigor, and so Mr. Forrester explained how “it is very difficult in a fast paced environment, like Saint Stephen’s, to be able to create elements of downtime.” 

The main problems “were scheduling and the activities that we have on campus.” 

In order to create a later starting schedule, the Upper School had to sacrifice downtime activity during the day like Chapel, assembly, or advisory. When coming back to school from COVID, the Upper School administrators “decided those parts of our day are really important times for students to be together and do things.”  

Even with these concerns, it has been three years since the pandemic and with the strong advantages seen in the trial days, it would be appreciated if it was incorporated into the school yearagain. Mr. Forrester mentioned that even though late start days have not yet happened post-COVID, the Upper School Administration has been trying to “take extra days to give us that extra piece of relaxation,” like the week-long winter break we just returned from. 

And recently Mr. Forrester and Mrs. Conn, they said they “have worked on a whole host of different schedules for a late start.” When asked if these schedules could be seen in the near future, Mr. Forrester shared that he “would absolutely see the Upper School in particular being able to have later starts at different times during the year.” 

Both Mr. Forrester and Mrs. Conn have been working hard to give the high school late start days.Just imagine waking up well rested and not having to rush in the morning, or being able to relax at school for an hour. I feel I am speaking for the whole upper school when I say late start days couldn’t come sooner.