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New California school start times hurt more than help

By Tammy Newman and Imran Shaikh Sep. 22, 2021

On Oct. 19, Calif. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328, announcing that Calif. high schools may start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. in response to reported levels of insufficient sleep from secondary school students. Up until recent times, studies surveying the way adolescents’ average amount of sleep affects their schoolwork performance had been scarce. To resolve this absence of information, Dr. Robert Stickgold, a sleep psychiatrist at Harvard University, established that a full eight hours of sleep at night increases memory retention. After recognizing the strong correlation between sleep and cognitive function, Newsom decided schools should adjust their opening times to better suit students’ need for healthy amounts of sleep.

The bill was largely prompted by multiple studies showing that early start times negatively affect students’ physical well-being. A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found that starting schools earlier can increase the risk of sleep deprivation by interfering with students’ circadian rhythms, the cycle that regulates sleep patterns. Subsequently, students can become more at risk for obesity, depression and suicide. According to the U.K.’s National Health Service, one major symptom of depression is a lack of motivation. Paired with the fact that insufficient sleep also conflicts with appetite control, students will likely proceed to gain weight unknowingly but lack the desire to lose weight. Spiraling further down this trend, their risk of getting type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol increases. To counter these, Senate Bill 328 pushes school start times back so that students would have more time to sleep.

“I like the added 30 minutes with the new start times because I can sleep an extra 30 minutes, but I feel as if school lasts much longer—by the time I get home it is usually already 4 p.m. I believe it is beneficial in terms of sleep but not in terms of time to do homework or after-school activities,” Freshman Sean Nguyen- Kenneth Yang Art Fell said.

The new bill has changed the school’s start time from 7:55 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. However, contrary to the bill’s original goal, students have not actually been able to get more sleep, as they have less time after school to complete schoolwork. In turn, they end up sleeping later than they had before. Specific students such as athletes, club members and leaders or students with emotional and behavioral difficulties, now have an even harder time balancing homework, extracurriculars and sleep. According to a Minnesota study over the course of two years by Gordon D. Wrobel, a licensed youth behavioral psychologist, students with preexisting disorders have shown diminished levels of focus in the afternoon after lunch ever since the new bell schedule was implemented. Furthermore, in Palo Alto Unified School District, students are now more likely to skip after-school activities, knowing they will not have enough time to complete homework with the late end to the school day, per The Campanile.

“Personally, this updated bell schedule has consistently been inconvenient for my family and me. Because schools open and close much later, my parents often cannot drop me off and I find myself arriving home hours after I finish my last class of the day, making it much harder for me to complete my homework and go Kenneth Yang Art to sleep at a reasonable time,” Junior

Eunwoo Kim said.

Conversely, some studies find that a later school start time would actually alleviate several harms from sleep deprivation. Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and teen specialist, states that sleep-deprived students may suffer from clouded judgment, which can lead to poor decisions like drug or alcohol abuse. To prevent this, the new schedule gives students more time to adjust in the morning.

But what overshadows the bill’s foreseeable benefits is the fact that schools still run for the same amount of time and assign the same amount of work. Furthermore, it can cause conflicts in transportation logistics. Due to the new schedule, parents may need to get to work before their child’s school starts, which is troublesome as many students rely on their parents to bring them to school.

Since the new start time further inconveniences students, school boards and parents, the state of California should reconsider the bill, its complications and whether it truly lives up to its initial purpose.

About the Contributors

Tammy Newman

Staff Writer

Tammy Newman is a junior at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for Journalism. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with her friends and family as well as reading and writing.

Imran Shaikh

Staff Writer

Imran Shaikh is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer for The Charger Account. When he has free time he likes to watch anime, hang out with his friends, and catch up on some much-needed sleep.

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