SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - More than three-quarters of middle and high schools in California start before 8:30 am and at least one lawmaker wants to change that.
Senate Bill 328 passed the Senate Health committee in late April and goes before its next committee hearing in mid-May. It would require schools, including charter schools, to start no earlier than 8:30 am by July 1, 2022. Zero periods would not count as part of the school day. Rural school district could request a waiver to delay implementation.
Currently, the average start time for California-based middle and high schools is 8:07 am, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Schools teaching grades 4-8 are required to offer 54,000 instructional minutes, and schools teaching grades 9-12 must offer 64,800 instructional minutes annually.
A study done by the American Academy of Pediatrics said teens not getting enough sleep was "an important public health issue that significantly affects the health and safety" of students.
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation last session, saying:
"This is a one-size-fits-all approach that is opposed by teachers and school boards. Several schools have already moved to later start times. Others prefer beginning the school day earlier. These are the types of decisions best handled in the local community."
The bill's author, Senator Anthony Portantino, wrote the bill is needed because, "The leaders of local school districts are or should be well-aware that requiring students – especially adolescents – to wake, travel to school, and learn during early morning hours is contrary to the developmental needs and biological sleep cycles of growing minds and bodies. Yet, only a handful of districts have been proactive in doing what is right for students by making the change back to traditional school hours, which prior to the 1980s had most school opening between 8:30 and 9 a.m. Today, most middle and high schools begin at or way before 8 a.m."
Analysis of the bill done by the Senate Health Committee cited a study involving 29 high schools and 30,000 students in seven states. It found, "Attendance rates and graduation rates significantly improved in schools with delayed start times of 8:30 a.m. or later. School officials need to take special notice that this investigation also raised questions about whether later start times are a mechanism for closing the achievement gap due to improved graduation rates."
Opponents also pointed out a later start time would create unintended costs and consequences for working parents responsible for getting their children to school and still arriving to work on-time. School districts would also need to adjust bus schedules, or add additional buses, in order to accommodate the later start time for middle and high schools, many of which start earlier than elementary schools.
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