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California Becomes First State To Require Later School Start Times

yawning student in class

Many parents of tweens and teens know the struggle of trying to wake their kids up in the morning to get to school. The start times for middle schools and high schools seem to be getting earlier and earlier as schools try to accommodate after school activities and bus schedules, but often at the expense of the children. Thanks to a new bill that has just been signed into law, California is now mandating later start times for both middle schools and high schools.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Sunday that will require most middle schools to have a start time of no earlier than 8:00 a.m. and high schools to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m. “The science shows that teenage students who start their day later increase their academic performance, attendance, and overall health,” Newsom said in a statement. “Importantly, the law allows three years for schools and school districts to plan and implement these changes,” the LA Times reports.

The new start times will be phased in according to the bill, and there will be some exceptions based on location and course availability. Parents and health experts have been advocating for later start times for middle schoolers and high schoolers for some time now. A study conducted by the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocated for later start times in order to maximize the learning potential for children in school. "The American Academy of Pediatrics lends its strong support to school districts contemplating delaying school start times as a means of optimizing sleep and alertness in the learning environment and encourages all school administrators and other stakeholders in communities around the country to review the scientific evidence regarding school start times, to initiate discussions on this issue, and to systematically evaluate the community-wide impact of these changes (eg, on academic performance, school budget, traffic patterns, teacher retention)," the study read.

The new start times for schools in California will begin during the 2022-2023 school year. Sen. Anthony Portantino who authored the legislation applauded the Governor's support of the bill. “Today, Gov. Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” Portantino said. “Generations of children will come to appreciate this historic day and our governor for taking bold action. Our children face a public health crisis. Shifting to a later start time will improve academic performance and save lives because it helps our children be healthier.”

The bill hasn't been without its critics. ABC News notes that the California Teachers Association strongly opposed the bill, suggesting that each school district should be able to decide their own start times. "School start times should be decided at the local level and include community input," the CTA says on their website. "Local leaders, with this input, are best prepared to make these decisions that will best meet the needs of the students."

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