Pleasant Grove High staff, students wrestle with changes of state-mandated later school start

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by Savannah Haile , Pleasant Grove High School

After many years of asking for a later start to the school day, students have finally received an answer to all of their requests. But is the outcome beneficial, or are the unintended consequences far greater than expected?

A new state law passed in 2019 requires all public high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. After being signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newson, it is finally being put into effect for the 2022-23 school year. The law, Senate Bill 328, was passed in order to combat the growing concerns that children are not able to focus on their schoolwork because the school day starts too early.

“In theory I think it’s great,” said Pleasant Grove High School principal Taigan Keplinger. “I have a freshman son and I would love for him to get more sleep.”

However, students who participate in any form of after-school activities, such as sports, clubs or tutoring, will not  get home until later in the day. As a result, they might not have enough time to finish their homework and get enough sleep, which was the entire point of starting the school day later in the first place.

Keplinger’s freshman son is an athlete and she recognizes the challenge of a later start.

“Getting out later, it pushes everything in his day back,” Keplinger said.

Transportation issues are also going to be a challenge this year because of the later start.

“As far as the logistics, it’s very challenging,” Keplinger said. “In our district, we have the largest number of buses and we are combined with Albiani Middle School. The problem is that Albiani has different requirements than we do.”

An additional worry is for the bus drivers, because they still have to accommodate the middle school’s needs, but the middle school is not affected by the recently passed law. This means  middle school still starts at 8 a.m., and high school students have to arrive at school at the same time. 

“I think that it’s very helpful for some students because they get more sleep, but at the same time they have to get here early because of their parents’ jobs, so there are still a lot of kids that get to school at the same time that school started last year,” said sophomore Alyssa Porter, the ASB president at Pleasant Grove.

Students now start school later, “but the parents’ work schedule didn’t necessarily change, so it’s difficult for them also,” Porter added.

The students who would like to go above and beyond in their education in order to attend a four-year university following high school are also facing difficulties in transitioning to this new schedule. 

 “I don’t like how school gets out very late, especially for me,” sophomore Aayush Raina said. “Since I take all (Advanced Placement) classes and have soccer practice from 6-8 p.m., I don’t have any time to do my school work.” 

This later start in the school day is great for students’ brain development. But the potential negative consequences may be far too great for this to truly be a successful change in California high schools.

“I think it’s great,” said Keplinger, “if students can actually go to bed and get some rest.”