Is Late-Start Worth It?

Briana Strader, Staff Writer

   Trust me, I’m right there with the rest of my peers. In fact, I have never wanted anything more than to arrive at school at a comfortable time—like maybe after the sun has risen. I too have basked in the extra hour of sleep that late-start Tuesdays bring. And, really, the promise of more sleep that California’s new start-time law provides sounds just as good to me as I’m sure it does to my fellow classmates. But, I’m sorry to say, it just can’t work.

   To Governor Newsom, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, to the California Medical Association and the California State Parent Teacher Association: no thank you. While I understand you all have kind and caring intentions, I implore you—just stay out of it. 

   Start times are local decisions. Start times are the type of decisions that should be made by small, locally elected committees. The decision to change start times should be left to parents, students, staff, and members of a community—not the entirety of California’s government. Both the School Boards Association and the California Teachers Association would agree. 

   Shifting focus to local needs, start times can be negotiated with the consideration of the demands of a community. Do most students arrive by bus? Are parents able to get kids to school at later times, while still arriving on time to work? What is good for one district of California might not work for every district.

   On an even smaller scale, what is good for one student might not work for every student in every school. The bill, signed by Newsom last week, omits students who choose to participate in optional zero period courses, which usually begin at 7 a.m. Adjustments made would fail to accommodate these students, who have the drive and motivation to sacrifice sleep for extra learning. As a member of Speech and Debate, which meets at 7 a.m., I empathize.

   I am not calling for drastic change. Merely consideration. Logistically, the law does not make sense. Those who argue for later start times push that students need more sleep. But what effect does an extra 15 or 30 minutes have on the bigger picture? If actual change is to be made, we must consider the needs of smaller communities, and make larger adjustments accordingly. Good change is not achieved by passing a blanket law that barely creates a dent in the current issue.