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New CA law requires later start times for middle and high schools this upcoming year

High schools can't start earlier than 8:30 a.m. , for middle school, it's 8 a.m.

SAN DIEGO — The start of the new school year is right around the corner! And for most middle and high schoolers, that could mean getting more sleep.

Starting July 1, a California state law now requires middle school start no earlier than 8 a.m.

For high school, it's 8:30 a.m. and the move is getting mixed reaction.

"Always...every day was a hard day to get up,” said Jordan Pinckney.

Pinckney said he's felt the negative effects of early start times during his time at Castle Park High School.

But, when the new year starts this Wednesday, the soon to be senior is anticipating some positive changes.

Pinckney's zero period class used to begin at 6:55 a.m. and this year, it's been pushed back to 7:25 a.m., with his first regular class starting at 8:30 a.m.

"Due to me showing up to school late consistently, unfortunately I got a 'D' for my zero period class...hopefully this changes that," said Pinckney.

A public health issue

The new law is a big win for the ‘Start School Later’ movement, which has been pushing districts to adjust their daily calendars for decades.

“This is a public health issue because the sleep deprivation in teens is really at epidemic levels,” said Joy Wake, Policy and Advocacy Director for Start School Later.

Wake said sleep deprivation can lead to depression, learning loss and attendance issues.

But, many parents argue a later start time is not only tough to manage with work schedules, extracurricular activities will be impacted as well.

On Facebook, one parent wrote:

  • “My kids will just go to bed later and getting them to school for the working class just became a nightmare.”

Another said:

  • “Seems good in theory, but doesn't go well for kids in sports. Everything just gets pushed later.”

Poway Unified spokesperson Christine Paik understands parents' frustrations.

Potential ripple effects

Paik said she's also had to navigate the changes, which in the Poway district will impact some elementary school start times too.

"We only have so many busses, so we have three tiers of bussing schedules and that's why when we're changing middle and high school times, elementary times are being effected as well," said Paik.

"Now high school students cannot staff our after school programs, and so we are so short-staffed that for the first time ever we're having to turn families away that normally we would be providing after school care for," said Paik.

Paik says schools are working on solutions for families and students, including offering zero periods and opening up campus early if possible.

In the meantime, she asks for patience as yet another change takes effect.

"Hopefully the law has its intended effect but we'll have to see," said Paik.

Rural districts and private schools are exempt from this new law. Similar proposals are being introduced in other states.

WATCH RELATED: Group fights against mask policies, files to run for San Diego school boards (July 2022).

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