Coming to a School Near You: Late Start Bill

The California State Senate recently passed SB 328, titled Pupil Attendance: School Start Time. Senator Anthony J. Portantino introduced the bill. Although the bill was recently shelved until January, the possibility for change could come sooner than we expect. The bill addresses school start times for middle schools, high schools, and charter schools in California. SB 328 requires that the school day begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. However, a “zero period” would not be impacted. The bill also requires that implementation take place by July 1, 2020 unless a waiver is granted. Fiscal impacts have not yet been determined, but certain costs mandated by the state would require reimbursements to school districts.

The bill resulted from recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control that later school start times benefit teenage students. Their studies indicate that teenagers’ internal clocks cause them to go to sleep later, or in other words, a “phase delay,” which results in lack of sleep for students. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine states that such lack of sleep may negatively impact mental health and learning ability while also possibly playing a role in increased obesity and even substance abuse rates. Proponents of SB 328 cite numerous studies that demonstrate that students who receive 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night tend to have better focus, memory, higher achievement on school exams and standardized tests, and improved behavior. They even point to statistics showing that in districts with later start times, the number of car accidents involving teen drivers decreased.

“I think it’s better if we start a little bit later. For most people in their adolescent years, sleep deprivation is largely because they don’t shut down early enough at night to get an adequate amount of sleep before they come to school,” Honors Freshman English teacher Tamara Nicoll said. “So I think we could move the start time of the school day so that it’s more amenable to students getting enough sleep. I would be all for it. It would be good for them academically, emotionally, and socially.”

While many factions support the later school start times and several schools across the country have already adopted it, others do not believe that such a change would be beneficial for students. For many, the current start time proves to be more convenient as many parents tend to drive their children and teens to school on their way to work. A later start might not allow for such arrangements, and parents might be unable as a whole to get their kids to school. Many opponents also argue that the start time itself is not the reason that students face sleep deprivation.

“The fact that most teenagers don’t get enough sleep isn’t because school starts too early. It’s because teachers give too much homework which is a completely different topic,” Freshman Carma Argyle said. “If the district pushed back the starting time, most kids wouldn’t have rides because most parents’ work schedules aren’t flexible.”

Student athletes and those engaged in extracurricular afterschool activities might also be negatively impacted by the later end time that the later start time would inevitably cause. In addition, some students have part-time jobs or other duties to attend to at the end of the school day, which a later start time might interfere with.

The current CHS Regular Bell Schedule shows that Period 2 begins at 7:55 AM. The SB 328 bill would add 35 minutes to the beginning and ending of the school day. Such a change would have a significant impact on students around CHS and their ability to perform in and out of school. Disagreements about benefits versus negative consequences would be sure to occur. Hopefully, if CHS’s administration does begin to consider such a significant alteration in school start and end times, they will consider all of the factors involved and request input from everyone who will be affected.