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Santa Maria area high schools begin year with new state-required later start time

Santa Maria High School students
Santa Maria High School students walk to campus on the first day of school Thursday morning. (Dave Alley/KEYT)

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- The first day of class in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District (SMJUHSD) on Thursday brought more than just the start of the new 2022-23 school year.

It also marked the first day with a later start time that is now required due to a new state law.

In 2019, the California State Legislature passed a law that requires all high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The same law also requires middle schools to start no earlier than 8 a.m. The new just went into effect on July 1, 2022.

The law was created to help provide children with an opportunity to receive time for additional sleep. In many districts, classes started in the 7 a.m. hour, which meant for thousands of students, waking up in the 6 a.m. or even 5 a.m. hour to get ready each day.

"I like that we get to sleep in a little bit more," said Santa Maria High School senior Carlos Nunez. "It's a benefit for us because we have more time to sleep and maybe more time to do our homework and stuff like that, so I feel like it's going to be very good."

On Thursday morning, more than 9,000 students in SMJUHSD, which includes Santa Maria, Righetti, Pioneer Valley and Delta high schools, began the new school year with classes beginning right at the new start time.

"We just shifted our bell schedule almost exactly an hour, so our first period started last year at 7:30 and this year it starts at 8:30," said Steve Campbell, Santa Maria High School principal. "It meant kind of a shift of everyone's work day back an hour, including our students. It's gone very smoothly today. Our kids are amazingly resilient and adjustable, but I think as families get more and more used to the drop-off times, and they work out the routines, it will all be fine, but it was a lot of extra planning this year to be ready for it."

A new later start time also means a new later end time as well. The end of the school day for SMJUHSD students who have a class in the seventh period is now 3:55 p.m.

The SMJUHSD webpage that explains the changes said, "The district understands the challenges for our staff, students, and families that come with this change, and we did not make the determination to implement the schedule without considerable input, including negotiations and input with our bargaining units. We will be evaluating the impacts of the change throughout the year and will consider making adjustments for the 2023-24 school year if necessary."

Article Topic Follows: Education
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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.

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