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California late start law: Middle and high school students will be able to sleep later when new academic year starts

When Hansika Daggolu’s high school starts in the fall, she’ll be watching to see if a later first bell under a new California law means fewer classmates will be hunched over their desks for afternoon naps.

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The overall mood, she suspects, would also lift if her classmates at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont weren’t so sleepy.

“I’m really excited and I’m so happy it’s happening,” said Hansika, 15, who said she will no longer have to get out of bed before 7am to go to school by 8am.

Starting this fall, high schools in the nation’s most populous state cannot start before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools cannot start before 8 am. under the 2019 law banning earlier start times. Similar proposals are before lawmakers in New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Proponents say teens do better on schoolwork when they’re more alert, and they predict even broader results: reduced teen suicides and traffic accidents, and improved physical and mental health.

“We know that teenagers are the most sleep-deprived age group, and our public policy is the cause,” said Joy Wake, who helped lead the Start School Later group’s efforts in California.

The average start time for high schools in the country was 8 am. in 2017-18, but about 42 percent started before then, including 10 percent who started classes before 7:30 a.m., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. High school start times in 2011-12, the most recent available from NCES, were similar.

It’s too early for teenagers whose bodies are hardwired to stay awake later than at other ages because of the later release of the sleep hormone melatonin, scientists say. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start at 8:30 am. or later. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends eight to 10 hours of sleep per night for children ages 13 to 18.

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After finishing eighth grade and doing all of ninth grade remotely due to the COVID-19 shutdown, Hansika said it was hard enough to transition from shortened, less structured days to more challenging classes at a new school without also struggling to stay alert. Distance learning allowed her to sleep until she registered at school in her robe and sleep after classes ended around 12:30 p.m. That changed when schools reopened last year.

“Lack of sleep in certain parts of the year has also been a problem for me, so there are a lot of factors that come together,” he said. She doesn’t anticipate staying up later because of the change next year.

Opponents of changing start times often cite logistical challenges, such as changing bus routes and after-school hours and disrupting family routines that rely on existing school and work schedules.

As California debated the change, Orange County Schools Superintendent Al Mijares worried it would disproportionately hurt students from working-class families and single-parent households.

“While it may be easy enough for some families with flexible schedules to adjust, in some communities, parents who work just to make ends meet cannot afford to delay the start of their workday,” she wrote in a 2019 opinion piece for the nonprofit Cal Matters.

Wake responds that it’s impossible to start school at a time that fits everyone’s work schedule, “but you can choose a time that doctors say is healthier and safer for teenage kids.”

Bills related to school start times have been introduced in at least 22 US states in recent years, according to Start School Later, though with limited success.

“Teenagers who don’t get enough sleep face many health risks, including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking and using drugs, as well as poor academic performance,” according to New Jersey legislation introduced in April by Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and Senator Vin Gopal, chairman of the Education Committee.

Requires 8:30am start times. or later throughout the territory.

The New Jersey School Boards Association opposed the effort in favor of letting local districts set their own schedules.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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California late start law: Middle and high school students will be able to sleep later when new academic year starts Source link California late start law: Middle and high school students will be able to sleep later when new academic year starts

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