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By Collin Breaux
Students in California middle and high schools can now grab a little extra sleep and preparation time, because the school day will start a little later, beginning this year.
State Senate Bill 328—signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2019—requires the school day for middle schools and high schools begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively, as of July 1. The changes were delayed during the COVID-19 upheaval, but they will fully take effect when the new school year starts on Aug. 15.
News coverage of SB 328 said its intended to address concerns that students were suffering from sleep deprivation with earlier start times. Various scheduled start times for middle and high schools in the Capistrano Unified School District include 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.
Some people within CUSD—including Dana Hills High School Parent Teacher Student Association President Katie Andersen—are happy to hear about the time shift.
“Neither of my children are early-risers, and I’m sure that’s true for many families,” Andersen said. “Having some extra time in the morning to either get a little extra sleep or finish homework with a fresh perspective will benefit all of our students, reduce stress and improve attentiveness, especially in morning classes.”
However, other members of the CUSD community have reservations, such as San Clemente High School Principal Chris Carter. Later start times means later dismissal times at the end of the school day—and, with it, the pushing back of schedules for school athletics, he said.
Consequently, students in athletic programs could get home even later, said Carter, who raised concerns about being able to hold baseball games while there’s still light outside.
Carter also mentioned potential effects on parents and siblings picking up children from school now that the dismissal times for San Clemente High and middle schools overlap, given the upcoming lack of a time window between the two.
“I’m not a fan of state mandates,” Carter said. “I’m apt for more local control.”
However, Carter is prepared to see both the pros and cons play out with the new change and said there are studies that say later start times can have benefits for students—including better academic performance.
“If what they claim comes to fruition, wonderful,” Carter said.
Other local educational leaders have different perspectives. Dana Hills High Principal Brad Baker thinks later start times are a good thing, because it gives students and school staff extra time to prepare for learning.
Students have informally brought up wanting a later start time over the years, Baker said.
Baker predicts the first few weeks might take some settling into, but he added that’s standard for the start of any new school year. In particular, Baker wants to make sure the local community is aware of the new start and end times—and how that will specifically impact traffic flow and when people should leave their homes for student pick-up and drop-off.
“Once they get into the rhythm of it, it’s going to be really good (for students),” Baker said. “The big thing is making sure they get the right amount of sleep.”
San Juan Hills High School Principal Manoj Mahindrakar said they are taking the later start time “in stride.”
“We have yet to experience if there will be any noticeable impact, but we have shared the new bell schedule widely and are hopeful things will run smoothly,” Mahindrakar said.
Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.