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All California public school will now start later

Starting the 2022-23 school year, SB328, originally signed into law in October of 2019 will go into effect. What does this mean? This means that high schools cannot start before 8:30AM, and middle schools cannot start sooner than 8:00AM.

Illustrated by Madison Chun


By: Daniel Gong, Catherine Qin, Katelyn Shen, Faith Qiao, Emma Lin

 

Preface: How Many Schools Really Start before 8:30AM? — Faith Qiao

I attend American High School. Since last year, our start times have already shifted to 8:30AM. But if you recall before the pandemic, during the 2019-2020 school year, start times were actually 8:10AM in the morning. In 2018-2019 school year, the start time was 8:00AM.

Though a thirty minute shift in start times may feel insignificant, in the 2011-2012 school year, ~84.1% of California high schools started before 8:30, and ~28.8% of middle schools started before 8:00AM. So yes, research and awareness campaigns across the state have already started shifting school start times. The main concern with abruptly changing start schedules is the fiscal impact on school districts who are responsible for enforcing after/before school supervision as well as bus scheduling. It wasn't ever skepticism about benefits of shifting start times but rather the unequal pressure of such an abrupt change which would ultimately damage some communities more than others.

Start times in California aren't nearly as atrocious as some other states. A 2017 National Center for Education Statistics report on school start times across the U.S. shows that Louisiana's high schools have an average start time of 7:30. Louisiana does not stand alone, in fact, only one state has an average start time later than 8:30—South Carolina. So if your looking to make a difference in the political world, go ahead and start a cold calling campaign to tell the legislators in Louisiana what is up. Or if you're feeling particularly inspired, go to Start School Later's website and see if they have a local chapter in your area. If they don't, you may be the one to start one.

 

The sound of the alarm clock is one that many are familiar with. The screeching, ear-piercing noise that forces us to wake up far before we’re ready. For children and teens who have a day of school to face upon getting out of bed, it is often accompanied by groans and the urge to stay in bed. After all, it’s not at all uncommon for teenagers to hit the sack after midnight, only to be woken up by the loud, constant buzz of an alarm not even seven hours later. Today, students inevitably wake up hours earlier than the school’s starting time to arrive at class on time. These school start times originated in the 1970s and 1980s, and despite the many lifestyle changes throughout the decades, have remained largely the same since.


But this changes this year. California Senate Bill 328 passed back in 2020 will officially come into effect in the coming school year. It promises to push back school start times across the entire state.


Researchers have been studying the effects of sleep on teenagers since the 18th century, studies in how sleep affects teenager development specifically have only gained traction in the past few decades. One of the first investigations on sleep impacting teenagers’ performance was a research conducted in 1997 at the seven high schools in the Minneapolis Public School District. Instead of starting school at 7:15 am, the schools shifted their start time to 8:40 am. This 1 hour and 25 minute time difference provided scientists the proof they needed. Students showed improvement in attendance, awakeness during class, lowering student-reported depression rates, and overall enrollment rates.


Since then, research on both the implementation and efficacy of later school start times has been done. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that “earlier school start times (ie, before 8:30 am) was a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption” (American Academy of Pediatrics). They recommend middle and high school start times that give students 8.5-9.5 hours of sleep, which in the long run will help “improve physical (eg, reduced obesity risk) and mental (eg, lower rates of depression) health, safety (eg, drowsy driving crashes), academic performance, and overall quality of life” (American Academy of Pediatrics).


It can sometimes be as bad as missing the first three classes of the day. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 34% of fifteen to seventeen year olds report falling asleep in school, and 18% for twelve to fourteen year olds. On average, 56% of fifteen to seventeen year olds get less than 7 hours of sleep.


Lobbyists and associated organizations have been working closely with legislative officials to push back school start times. The largest group is Start School Later, a nationwide “coalition of health professionals, sleep scientists, educators, parents, students, and other concerned citizens dedicated to increasing public awareness about the relationship between sleep and school hours and to ensuring school start times are compatible with health, safety, education, and equity” (Start School Later).


Founded in 2011 by Terra Ziporyn Snider and Maribel Cabrera Ibrahim, their primary goal is to make sure no students are in class before 8 am and no middle and high school is in class before 8:30 am. Snider is an award-winning author of numerous popular health and medical books that helped with studies on sleep and also advocated for public health. Maribel Cabrera Ibrahim, helps with the logistics and process development for this growing national organization. Start School Later has been actively involved in legislation regarding school start times. In Maryland, they helped pass two bills: one requiring health officials to conduct studies on delaying and recommending public school start times and the other creating the “Orange Ribbon” certification programs for schools starting at later times. The “Orange Ribbon” program recognizes “a local education agency that creates, implements, and enforces school start times that are consistent with the school start times recommended by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE), the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) and the American Academy of Pediatrics” (Maryland State Department of Education).


“Moving school start times is no guarantee that most teenagers will get the sleep they need. But not moving school start times is guarantee that most won’t” – Terra Ziporyn Snider, Co-Founder, Start School Later


The California counterpart is Senate Bill 328. Pushing SB 328 was a long and difficult task. State Senator Anthony Portantino originally proposed this bill to former governor Jerry Brown. Unfortunately, on September 20, 2018, the former governor vetoed the bill, stating: “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” (EdSource).


Governor Brown didn’t stand alone with that opinion. Shifting school start times, prior to the passing of SB 328, was the responsibility of local school boards. The Assembly Appropriations Committee that primarily deals with “fiscal bills, including bonds and alternative public financing” notes that the changing transportation and student supervision may reach a one-time cost of “tens of millions of dollars statewide” and have ongoing pressures on the proposition 98 funds in the amount of “low millions” (SB328).


However, Portantino was determined to bring this “important public health issue back [in 2019],” and he did it successfully. In 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom became the new governor of California. Portantino took this opportunity and appealed to Newsom, who approved the bill in October of that year. As for the actual impact, schools have until the 2022-23 school year to shift start times to fit the criteria of SB328.


Any middle/high schooler, excluding rural school districts and rural charter schools, in California might have noticed a shift in their bell schedule at school, either starting no earlier than 8 am (middle school) or at 8:30 am (for high school). This bill does NOT eliminate zero periods, but because of the delay in the school’s start time, the start time for zero period will naturally shift towards a later time, as it is right before first period.


If students have the same amount of work, starting school later will just mean that everything in their schedule gets moved back later, right? Well, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, girls got 36 more minutes of sleep a night for every hour school moved back. It has been proven that longer sleep relates to better academic achievements. In one biology class, the students’ grades increased by 4.5% on average. On the downside, The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that moving school back will result in less time for leisure activities and nap times. When taking that into consideration, the amount of sleep students have is the same amount overall. In addition, there is a potential chance that this bill will backfire on itself.


At Mission San Jose High School, Wednesday is a late start day; school starts at 9 am instead of 8 am. Without a doubt, there is a consensus that Wednesdays are one of those days students look forward to during the week, especially during those bad weeks. At least for us, we’ve reached the limit in terms of how late we can sleep. So the result is a brighter, fresher start to the day; we feel more refreshed because we get more sleep, and the extra time often allows us to have a better morning routine. Even teachers and faculty have noticed students are more energized on Wednesdays due to the extra sleep. As my English teacher put it, “ You guys seem so much more energized and lively when you sleep more!” She said this to a sixth period class of students who have already been in school for six hours, showing that the effects of more sleep are noticeable throughout the whole day, not just in the morning.


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