California Schools Push back Start Times

Sophia Geranios, Reporter

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Missoula County public high schools start at 7:50. To get the recommended amount of sleep for teenagers, hypothetically waking up at 7, you would have to go to bed at 9:30. Most people actually wake up before 7, especially since some Hellgate students live as far as 30 minutes away, in places like Turrah or Clinton.

California recently passed a statewide bill that says all high schools should start no earlier than 8:30 am. Unfortunately, this law will not go into effect until the 2022 school year. Only 40 minutes later may not seem like a lot, but when you’re a sleep deprived high school student who stayed up until 11:00 the night before finishing your homework, it makes a difference. 

A survey of 1,000 high school teachers by the University of Phoenix say they give on average 3.5 hours of homework a night. For students who have extracurriculars, a sport, a club, a job, this can push back their bedtime until long after the recommended 9:30 p.m. The actual amount of sleep teenagers get is just over 2 hours less than the medically recommended number, averaging 7 hours a night. Sleep deprivation can contribute to many negative effects, like lack of focus, weaker immune system, and most importantly poor mental health. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that schools should start at 8:30 or later. 

Why is it that the age that needs the most sleep is getting the least? Well, although it would seem the effects of a later start time are mainly positive, there are a few reasons it could not be beneficial to students and their families. An earlier start time also means a later end time, which would mean the sports programs and school clubs that begin right after school would have to change their start times, which could have a domino effect with a student’s entire after school schedule, as well as their family’s. For students with younger siblings, they might need to get home right after school to take care of them while their parents might still be at work in a 9 to 5 job. However, there are after school care programs at most elementaries.

Another issue specifically in the MCPS district is transportation to school. The Beach transportation company buses run at certain times and changing those could prove to be more difficult than any of the other issues at hand. Since this company is the main mode of transportation for MCPS, the buses not only run the highschool routes, but all public schools in the district. Changing this schedule could upset the whole system and cause issues for students, parents, and bus drivers.

While the majority of students would most likely prefer to push school start times back, there are many problems in the way of an 8:30 beginning. California’s new law could be the start of a countrywide movement, one step closer to fixing the American education system.