California Passes Bill To Start School Later In The Day

Natalie Dest

California recently passed the Senate Bill 328, which mandated for middle schools and high schools to start classes at a later time thus prompting the nation to discuss and ask the question everyone’s thinking: would starting school later in the day actually benefit a teenager’s health?

According to Edweek, “middle schools can’t start classes until 8 a.m. and high school until 8:30. Schools have three years to make the changes,” under the new state law. The change was put into place to ensure students get enough sleep each night and are well-rested for school. However, this leads to the issue of whether later school starts will actually result in more sleep for the students attending and cause better health.

According to the Los Angeles Times, one study indicated that it may make a significant but not dramatic difference every night, gaining about only 15 or 20 minutes per night. Another study found that for each half-hour the start of school was delayed, students would only get 11 more minutes of sleep; therefore, starting an hour later would add up to just 22 extra minutes of sleep.

If states were to pass this law and school districts were to adjust, it is projected that students would only be gaining a few more minutes of sleep compared to their original sleep schedule.

It should also be factored in that if school is starting later, it will also end later, leaving students with less time to do their homework after school and  forcing them to stay awake longer than they usually would. If students are going to bed later, it would negate the point of waking up at a later time for school.

Another potential downfall of California’s new law is transportation. Since middle and high schools will now be starting after 8 a.m., elementary schools will must decide if they will have to start classes much earlier or much later to ensure that school busses are available to transport the children.

“According to the legislative analysis, elementary schools would probably have to start classes earlier so that district busses would be freed up for the later middle and high school routes,” the LA Times stated in their editorial.

Since elementary schools would start earlier in the day, they will also end earlier, which will interfere with when parents will leave work early to be with their kids or will cause elementary students to spend more time in after-school programs.

Having middle schools and high schools start later in the day would only create confusion and doesn’t have enough convincing health benefits. Not only does it meddle with the state’s elementary schools’ schedule, but it also reorganizes the transportation schedule and messes with working parents’ schedules. If other states are considering to follow suit in California’s footsteps, then they should carefully weigh the pros and cons before passing any similar bills.