California will become the first state in the nation to mandate later start times at most middle schools and high schools under legislation signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 13, a proposal designed to improve educational outcomes by giving students more sleep.
“The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes.”
The law will take effect over a phased-in period, ultimately requiring public middle schools to begin classes at 8 AM or later while high schools will start no earlier than 8:30 AM. The law does not apply to optional early classes, known as “zero periods.”
While I don’t question the scientific evidence supporting later start times, I am concerned with the burden this places on parents and schools. Those who work the early morning shift would especially be hard hit in terms of scheduling drop offs. I wonder what later school end times would mean for sports and after-school activities. Groups would have to meet later causing them to go home even later. Students and parents who rely on public transportation may have to opt out of morning activities that could help bolster their academic or work performance (seminars, additional training, etc).
School districts would have to spend additional money on transportation because many districts stagger their transportation. In order to use the same buses for all of their students, pushing back middle and high-school start times could mean paying for more buses and overtime since now they would be working longer hours to ensure students get there on time and then picked up later on.
“Everyone is going to be watching to see what the results are going to be,” said Deborah Temkin, senior director of the education program at Child Trends, a Washington-based research organization. “California, as one of the largest states in the country, can really define policy movements across the country. If this turns out to be successful, with relatively few consequences, then I think it’s something that other states will likely consider.”
I truly hope the advantages outweigh the cons of this new policy. New ideas can be scary especially when it involves one of the largest school districts in the country. Even well-meaning ideas like this can have disastrous consequences for some of the people it is meant to help.
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