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Vacaville Unified School District Leads The Way For Later School Start Time

VACAVILLE (CBS13) — Lawmakers are once again pushing to require middle and high schools across the state to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

They say data shows later start times means more sleep, and therefore higher attendance and better grades for students. Governor Jerry Brown shut down the bill last year, but now there's hope Governor Gavin Newsom will think differently.

The Vacaville Unified School District has had a later start time for a full year. They could serve as a model for schools across Northern California if this legislation passes.

It's a surprise to hear Vacaville High School Seniors aren't big fans of starting their mornings almost an hour later.

"You're really just staying up later, and you're just leaving the same amount of time and just waking up, just at a different time," Noah Windham said.

READ ALSO: Middle And High Schools In California Could Start Later Than 8:30 am

They say it's harder to fit in time for homework after getting home late from athletics, and their grades are taking a hit. But Vacaville District leaders say since this policy started, the data they've taken is mainly positive.

"Certainly first-period tardiness is way down, so that's a good sign generally. Attendance is better, grades seem a little bit better," said ED Santopadre, Assistant Superintendent, with the Vacaville Unified School District.

Other students agree with that.

"I like it because last year I used to skip first period a lot so my grade in that class dropped a lot. But this year, because I get to sleep longer, I've been getting to school on time," said senior Nika Nowroozi.

Parents we spoke with said this could cause problems for families whose schedules are set to an existing routine.

"I want my kids to have an earlier start because that way I get them to bed earlier and they won't be up later," said Michelle Gonzalez.

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Vacaville offers resources to help that. For one, there is staff scheduled at schools in the morning to help parents who need to drop their kids off early.

"I guess it all depends on where you work and what your job is, and your whole situation: so that definitely comes into play," Gonzalez said.

The district says they are open to change. They plan to survey parents after two years of late start times and will check on AP scores to see whether there is a connection between the start times and testing. But that may not matter, if this bill passes. The next hearing is scheduled for May 13th.

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