Are later secondary school start times helping or hurting California high school students?

Pixabay

Pixabay

With the intent to better ensure students get a good night’s sleep, California this year became the first state to implement a law (Senate Bill 328, 2019) requiring public high schools to ring the first period bell no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

The purpose of the later start time is to help students, mentally and psychically, as some research shows earlier school hours and after school hours take a toll on the well-being or the daily schedule of students. 

But the hope for students getting their target of eight hours of sleep has been counteracted by the various unintended consequences of the schedule push back, which took effect July 1.

Fast forward to five months later, most students have gotten enough time to adjust to this new part of their daily routines across the state of California. At Rosemont High School, students offered differing perspectives on their school’s change from 8 a.m. to the new 8:30 start time. 

“When they do this… you’re pushing practices back, you’re pushing work time back, you’re not fixing the sleep problem, but it adds more stress.” said junior Heather Briggs, a student-athlete who is in multiple AP classes and attends a zero period. 

She said the new start time has negatively affected her daily routine, and that with attending seven classes each day and night time practices for softball, it’s hard to balance it all. As for the additional sleep the later start time was supposed to provide, she said she has experienced the opposite.

 “It takes so much out of me that now I am used to the feeling of no sleep,” said Briggs.

But other students have said the change has benefitted them so far. Senior Luke Macey who isn’t committed to any extracurriculars, finds the later start and end to the school day better than before.

“8:30 is a better school experience, it’s much easier, and I feel less tired.” Macey said. “It works well from my perspective; it helps.” 

As for junior class president Rigoberto Canseco Cruz, the change has its pros and cons. 

“I’m for it because we get a little bit more sleep but also against it for that same reason… the later end time.” said Canseco Cruz, who balances four AP classes and extracurriculars. “But after school, it does take away a lot . . . Sometimes I’ll start my homework around 7 or 8… stay up really late until 1 or 2 a.m. to finish. My sleep schedule is really bad.” 

Some students say the later start time could help kids who need it the most.“I feel like the kids that struggle with mental health, this helps them because it’s a struggle to get up in the morning.” said Sophia Houston, a junior who is a working, AP student-athlete.

Houston said the change has complicated her life. “The school day is just so long,” she said. “Starting so late then we get out late, sports start and end late and I have to stay up all night doing homework instead of using some of that time.” 

At Rosemont, the school day ends at 3:27, which only gives Jimena Quinonez Ochoa and Jennécie Torres, juniors at Rosemont High, a small amount of time to get home and get ready for their after-school jobs.

“It has affected me more negatively than positively, considering that we get out later, I have less time to get all of my school work and at-home chores done. The 30 minutes added onto the total hours of sleep… I don’t think it was worth it.” said Quinonez Ochoa.

Torres expressed a similar view, “By pushing back start times, we struggle trying to fit everything in with a short part of the day, even though it’s 30 minutes, I’d rather have an earlier start time because if I’m getting home earlier it’s just easier to manage life.”