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Bill to start school later close to becoming law

Older students in California may be able to sleep in a little longer in the future if Governor Brown signs a bill that is now on his desk.

SB 328 would require that all middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and was recently approved by the both houses of State Legislature.

It was written by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) in an effort to help give students more time to sleep.

In the bill, Portantino points out that many students are not getting the required amount of sleep, which can cause mental and physical health problems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the average start time for middle and high schools in the state is 8:07 a.m.

Should AB 328 go into law, it would have monumental changes across the educational landscape.

“It would have a significant ripple effect across our school communities and into the rest of our school community,” said

Hillery Dixon, Lucia Mar Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. “It would really impact our whole system, shifting everything, including work hours for our staff and our coaches to a later time frame.”

Dixon points out transportation at unified school districts, such as Lucia Mar, that serve all grade levels TK though 12th grade, would be greatly impacted.

“Our buses pick up our older students first, drop them off at school and then swing back around and get our elementary students and if this bill were to pass, it would ultimately affect start times for all of our students because our younger students would either need to start earlier or later,” said Dixon.

Pushing start times back would cause school days to naturally end later, which could have unintended consequences.

“If students are home later, and have dinner later and have homework later, do they go to sleep later, but they get to sleep in a bit if the bill is passed,” Dixon said.

After-school activities, such as athletics, drama and other clubs would also be impacted.

“I think we would see all of that being pushed back later, perhaps shorter practice times,” Dixon said. “It might affect our athletic schedules in terms of access to facilities because multiple teams are trying to access at the same time.”

The bill is opposed by a number of education-related organizations, such as the California Teachers Association.

The union believes school start times should be decided at the local level, with input from parents and students in each community.

In a letter to Governor Brown, CTA Legislative Advocate Seth Bramble states, “The one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work in California. In fact, it was rejected when we established the Local Control Funding Formula. The further we make decisions from the classroom, the worse those decisions are. As trusted professionals, educators are best equipped to make school and classroom decisions to ensure student success.”

Bramble adds the bill is particularly unfair to families with lower incomes.

“This is a proposal that could have a disproportionately negative impact on working families, particularly laborers and service industry employees who don’t have the option of starting their work day later,” Bramble writes. “We know from experience that many of these parents will drop their children off at school at the same time they do now, regardless of Page 4 of 4 whether there is supervision, and there is not enough funding from the state for before school programs to ensure the safety of students who will be dropped off early.”

Governor Brown has until Sept. 30 sign SB 328.

If he does, it would go into effect on July 1, 2021.

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