Many Bay Area High School Students to Start Day Half-Hour Later

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Back to school this fall means an extra half-hour of sleep for many Bay Area high school students.

A new law in California mandates that by July 1 of this year, high schools cannot start the school day before 8:30 a.m. and middle schools cannot start before 8 a.m.

Proponents of SB 328 argue that the traditional 8 a.m. start time had a negative impact on teens' mental health, saying adolescents are biologically different than adults as they stay up later and therefore need to wake up later.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agreed with the later start time.

Opponents meanwhile argue about the impact a later start time has on school bus routes and parents' work schedules.

One teen, a junior at Mission San Jose High School in Fremont, can’t wait for the extra half-hour of sleep.

"Not only myself. I do notice a lot of kids in school in first period, they’re super sleepy," student Hansika Daggolu said. "They’re unable to pay attention. And I personally had my math class in first period, and I saw that a lot of people weren’t able to perform their best."

Joy Wake of Start School Later, added: "It actually is a public health risk that increases their likelihood for becoming depressed, suffering from anxiety. It increases their suicide risk. And we know that teenagers are more likely to get in car accidents when they are sleep deprived. And they are more likely to miss school."

A number of Bay Area high school districts like Tamalpais Union High switched to the 8:30 start time last fall. Their superintendent, who is in favor of the later start time, says the mornings seem to be less frenetic but so far hasn’t seen an increase in attendance. She says they need more time away from the pandemic to see if the extra half hour is making a big difference.

"At the beginning of the year, some of the students at the schools that had just gone to it were still adjusting, they didn’t love it," Superintendent Tara Taupier said. "Just because they were getting out at 3:40 in the afternoon. And for some of them felt like that was a really long day, particularly in the winter, when it starts to get dark a little earlier. But overall haven’t heard a whole lot of of complaints."

The new 8:30 start time does not impact zero period, the classes that begin before the regular class schedule.

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