California lawmakers authorize later school start times

New bill orders schools to start after 8:30 a.m., excluding zero period

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California lawmakers authorize later school start times

Graphic design by Anshu Rao and Mina Jung

Graphic design by Anshu Rao and Mina Jung

Graphic design by Anshu Rao and Mina Jung

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“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” said math teacher Jared Weintraub, quoting Benjamin Franklin in response to lawmakers efforts to push back school start times.

California state legislature passed Senate Bill 328 on Aug. 31 requiring schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Parents have argued for a change to school start times in an effort to protect student health and well-being.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study saying that on average, schools start at 8:07 a.m. The study also referenced a policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics in support of the change as a means to help students get more sleep and improve their health and academic performance.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) urged middle and high schools to modify start times as a means to enable students to get adequate sleep and improve their health [and] academic performance,” the CDC wrote. “AAP recommended that ‘middle and high schools should aim for a starting time of no earlier than 8:30 a.m.’”

Oak Park High School students, such as freshman Shreya Maddhali, say that the later start times would be a welcome change, especially for those who commute from out of district.

“I live in Simi [Valley], so I need to leave 30 minutes earlier in order to drive from Simi to Oak Park,” Maddhali said. “If I want to leave the house by 7:15, I must wake up at 6:15 because I need time to get ready.”

While students rejoice, there is a pushback from the California Teachers Association. President of the CTA Eric Heins stated in an interview to another news source that his organization believes such a “one size fits all” approach will result in consequences affecting employees, transportation funds and class schedules.

“We don’t know all the impact it’s going to have on any community,” Heins said. “There are a lot of different ripple effects of this.”

Staff members at Oak Park High School and teacher organizations across California are split in their views on the issue. The California Federation of Teachers is in support of the bill as a means to support medical research showing that teens have difficulty falling asleep early in the evening and functioning well in the morning.

“Having a school time starting early can be a good thing to build that habit of waking up early and using that time in the morning,” Weintraub said in an interview. “But I also see that sleeping is important too … I have mixed feelings about it.”

Questions arose about extracurricular activities –– many students are worried that after-school activities will be pushed back along with later start times. However, this likely won’t be the case because Oak Park High school has regularly started school at 8:30 a.m.

“I have other activities that keep me at school until 6, like Mock Trial,” Maddhali said. “That ends at 5 and I live far away, so I get home at six o’clock and then I usually have three to four hours of homework to do.”

Additionally, if the bill were to pass, Oak Park Unified School District would have to reschedule the start times of the high school and middle school in order to prevent traffic and address other safety concerns. Currently, the middle school starts at 8:17 a.m. with the late bell ringing at 8:23 a.m. If the middle school were forced to start at 8:30 a.m., concurrent with the high school, there would be concerns regarding the influx of cars and students.

“It would be a major problem because both schools would be starting at exactly the same time. And so there would be pressure for one of them to start ten minutes later probably,” Superintendent Tony Knight said.

According to Knight, the bill would not affect zero-period classes as not all students take it. If zero-period were pushed back, school would also end later.

Governor Jerry Brown of California vetoed the bill on Aug. 21, stating that the choice should be left up to the schools. However, proponents of the bill are trying to get it passed again as the governor’s term expires at the end of this year.

“I think that Governor Brown should veto the bill because I think it should be left up to local school districts to decide,” Knight said. “I don’t think it should be up to the state of California to say you can’t start before a certain time.”

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