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Bill To Delay California School Start Times Gets Mixed Reviews

LOS ANGELES ( — A bill to delay start times in California schools is getting mixed reviews.

That's the idea behind SB-328 that would change start times for middle and high schools in California to no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The goal is to allow students to get more rest, which could lead to better performance in the classroom.

This is great news for Alejhandra Alay who said she has so much homework, she doesn't get to sleep until 1 a.m.

"I put a lot of effort into my work, and sometimes I literally get to work and I look like a zombie. I try sleeping, but I can't," the ninth grader said.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Cañada Flintridge, who has daughters in high school and college.

He said 400 other districts throughout the country have adopted a later start time and have seen grades and attendance improve dramatically.

"At the same time, car accidents, number one killer of teens in America, car accidents significantly go down. Sports injuries significantly go down. Obesity goes down. Drug use goes down," Portantino said.

Isaiah Hutchison said there just isn't enough time in the morning to get him and his three younger sisters to school on time. He often gets in trouble for tardiness.

"Most of the time because of all the traffic and stuff, we're still late. And then I get detention because I'm ten minutes late," the eighth grader said.

The California School Board Association claimed the later start time may not fit with parents' work schedules and could leave kids without a safe place to go in the morning before school starts.

Nancy Espinoza of the California School Boards Association, which opposes the bill, said the state's size and diversity would pose challenges.

"It just defies logic to prescribe a single start time for communities where parents largely don't have the flexibility to adjust their work schedules (and) where there aren't safe places for kids to go in the morning after their parents leave," Espinoza said.

Portantino said the benefits far outweigh the concerns. "For me, it's a no brainer. We should follow the science, follow the results and put the best interest of our kids first," he said.

Schools in Davis and Sacramento have already moved to the later start time.

The University of Minnesota's Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement in 2014 sampled around 9,000 students across five school districts outside California.

It found that students who sleep eight or more hours are less likely to have depression, fall asleep in class, drink caffeine or engage in dangerous behavior.

"The more I'm looking at the findings I do at my research center, the more it is compelling evidence that teenagers are at great risk when they get less than eight hours of sleep per night," said Kyla L. Wahlstrom, the lead investigator of the study.

In Wahlstrom's study, students who started before 8:35 a.m. averaged around 7.8 hours of sleep, just shy of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's eight-hour standard.

The bill cleared the Assembly Education Committee in early July.

But the idea hasn't caught on with the panel's chairman, Assemblyman Patrick O'Donnell, D-Long Beach. He said kids with working parents with rigid schedules will have to get up early anyway.

"I don't see how this has kids waking up any later, because aren't they going to have to go into daycare before the school day starts? How does that increase the sleep time?" O'Donnell asked.

The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the bill, which has passed the State Senate. A final vote could be coming next month.

If the bill becomes law, it will go effect in July of 2020.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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