BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — With the school year coming to an end soon parents of middle school and high school students need to be aware of an upcoming change that may impact their day-to-day schedules.
In 2019, State Bill 328, also known as the Later School Start Time Act, was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom. This means that beginning July 1st, California will become the first state in the country to mandate that high schools and middle schools start later in the morning.
Senate Bill No. 328
Existing law requires the governing board of each school district to fix the length of the school day for the several grades and classes of the schools maintained by the school district in accordance with specified provisions of law.
This bill would require the school day for middle schools and high schools, including those operated as charter schools, to begin no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, by July 1, 2022, or the date on which a school district’s or charter school’s respective collective bargaining agreement that is operative on January 1, 2020, expires, whichever is later, except for rural school districts. To the extent the bill imposes new duties on school districts and charter schools, the bill would impose a state-mandated local program. The bill would encourage the State Department of Education to post specified information on its internet website, including research on the impact of sleep deprivation on adolescents and the benefits of a later school start time, and to advise school districts and charter schools of this posting.
The California Constitution requires the state to reimburse local agencies and school districts for certain costs mandated by the state. Statutory provisions establish procedures for making that reimbursement.
This bill would provide that, if the Commission on State Mandates determines that the bill contains costs mandated by the state, reimbursement for those costs shall be made pursuant to the statutory provisions noted above.
However, local staff of the Kern County school districts say this new bill changes a lot within the normal drop-off and pick-up routine not only for children but for their parents as well.
BCSD Superintendent Mark Luque says that SB 328 results in middle schools not being able to start school until after 8 a.m. and high schools not being able to start until after 8:30 a.m.
“I am concerned. As the superintendent speaking for myself, as a representative of the district, I am not in favor of this change. I am both the superintendent but I am also a parent. I am the father of a high school student, so I understand how this is going to impact her schedule,” said Luque. “When you factor in a district like BCSD where we are a large district, nearly 30,000 students, and we have a bus fleet that requires the staggered schedule to get our kids to and from school. Requiring us to start school after 8 o'clock creates immense pressure and results in what we're having now."
Luque adds that although the bill was signed in 2019 with the impact of the pandemic that began in 2020 many staff in education expected to see a delay in the implementation of the bill. However, Luque says that the delay never came and they had to prepare as soon as possible.
“So in December and January, we began to discuss and evaluate our own systems in our district to determine how best we can meet the demands and requirements of this legislation.”
Luque says that one of the newest challenges among this new start time that school districts are having to face is creating activities for students to take part in before and after school.
“I also understand that parents are going to drop off kids at school whatever is required by their schedule and so another unintended consequence of this law change is the pressure it places on school districts to allocate resources before school to supervise and support kids which haven’t necessarily been in place before.”
The bill is based on over three decades of research on teen health, sleep patterns, and brain chemistry. However, Luque says the change in start time carries over into the extra-curricular activities and academic dedication that students have following the school day.
“Sports, homework responsibilities, that can take us hours of their evening. All this is going to do is prolong their nights and they're going to stay up later and still have to get the same exact hours of sleep and wake up to get ready to go to school the next day.”
Luque adds that the time change not only impacts parents who drop off and pick up their kids every day but it also changes for students who rely on transportation from school buses. BCSD transports nearly 4,000 students to and from school and the district plans to build an additional 10 minutes in their school bus run time to meet the demands of this new bill.
Luque says that he understands the concerns that parents have with the new time start but it is not within their authority to change. However, he looks forward to the implementation of new activities to help and support their students with this new adjustment.
There have been lots of research and studies done on teenagers and their sleeping patterns. 23ABC took an in-depth look at one report from the Child Mind Institute to get a better understanding of why it's hard for teens to fall asleep and get the rest they need.
According to the Institute, the biggest reason is simply a teen's biology. Along with the more obvious hormonal changes that transform your child into a teen, there are shifts in the production of melatonin, the sleep hormone. That is why your teenager actually seems more awake at night.
“The typical high school student’s natural time to fall asleep is 11 pm or later. We really need to adjust the environment instead of asking teenagers to adjust their physiology,” says Dr. Allison Baker, a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
The other reason is using technology at night. Electronics emit a glow called blue light. That light sends a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps kids from feeling tired.
"When it hits receptors in the eye, says Dr. Van Gilder, 'those receptors send a signal to the brain which suppresses the production of melatonin and keeps kids from feeling tired. And adolescents are low on melatonin and start producing it later to begin with.' Dr. Van Gilder says he’s seen adolescent bedtimes pushed back an hour to an hour and a half over the years since teens started doing their homework on computers. On average, my teenage patients are going to bed at around 12:30 now.”
And the final reason is overscheduling. Many teens are applying for college and have to partake in several extracurricular activities to be considered. Unfortunately, when doing too much it takes away from sleep. It's all about finding balance and making sure to not take on more than can be handled.