State Law Allows Students More Time to Sleep

Macy Cooper

Recently, California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced that in the 2022-23 school year, high schools and middle schools will have later start times in an effort to improve teenage sleeping schedules.  According to research done in 2016 by The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, teenagers are more healthy when they get eight to ten hours of sleep each night. This law is meant to allow students to get some extra sleep in the morning to better their sleeping habits.  However, some schools, including ours, might not be able to put this law into action.  

Durham High School principal, Robbin Pedrett said, “We are going to apply for a waiver based on transportation because we are limited and because we’re a district, we supply transportation for the elementary, intermediate, and high schools.” With limited transportation available, the school is unable to provide enough buses to accommodate this change.  Pedrett found another flaw with this law, “Because we are only running the buses one time a day in order to save money,” Pedrett said, “then it would be counterproductive for us to run the buses two times. The state is coming out with that law but they’re not coming out with any money to support that law.” As of now, the school district does not have the funding to support a separate bus system for each school. “Some schools will go on for more days, therefore you can have fewer minutes in a day,” Pedrett said. “We’re trying to go 180 days and crowd our minutes into that time frame.”  If the high school started later, the release time would have to be later and that would differ from the other two school’s times, leading to the need for multiple buses.

The idea of this law is to allow students to get more sleep so they can improve their academic scores and be less tired throughout the day. At the same time, this law has unintended repercussions that come with it.  Many people participate in school sports and other extracurricular activities.  These practices meet after school and for them to continue in that way, they would end up going later into the evening because students would be getting out of school at a later time.

 “Certainly the issue would be teams and practice and wintertime,” Pedrett said, “and we have one existing gym so we’d have to have both teams of girls basketball and boys basketball practice. That means somebody would have to practice before school and therefore that kind of eliminates the idea of ‘don’t get children out of bed early’”  With only one facility open for multiple practices, this situation is not ideal for this small town.

When deciding whether or not students would take advantage of this later start time, Pedrett had a personal connection. She said, “One of my own children was kind of a night owl and my other child was not. He went to bed at a reasonable time, the other one stayed up later.  So if I don’t have to be at school until 8:30, does that mean I’m going to stay up later at night?  It depends on how students interpret it.”  There could be multiple viewpoints when hearing about this law.  The student might think they just get an extra hour of sleep added to their night and continue to go to bed at their normal time.  But the student could also think that since they do not have to go to school until an hour later, they can stay up later at night which would not allow them to get any more sleep than they did before.  

In a survey conducted at Durham High School, the question was asked, ‘Would you rather have school start before 8:30 am or after 8:30 am?’  Interestingly, the freshman, junior, and senior classes preferred for school to start before 8:30 am, therefore allowing the school to get out earlier.  However, the majority of the sophomore class would rather start school after 8:30.  In total, 52% of the school favored school starting before 8:30 am and getting done sooner and the remaining 48% wanted school to start after 8:30 am.  

As with any new change, there can be consequences that often are not thought about.  The Durham Unified School District has valid reasons for keeping the school schedules the same. At this time, principal Robbin Pedrett is planning to apply for a waiver that would exempt the schools from this law.  Pedrett said, “I believe there is a good chance for the waiver to get passed due to transportation.” Research shows that this law could improve teens’ sleeping habits, health, and academic performance, but this change could affect the students, staff, parents, childcare providers, and coaches immensely.