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Opinion

The Whiteboard Jungle: Later start times at schools will lead to more success for students, teachers

The Hoover High School campus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Sunday mandating that middle schools across the state begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
(File Photo)

7:00 – “Good morning, Mike. Time to wake up and go to school.”

7:10 – “Mike, get out of bed. Your breakfast is getting cold.”

7:20 – “Mike, get up now, you’re going to be late for school.”

7:30 – “Mike, if you don’t get out of bed this minute, there is no video game playing tonight!”

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How often has a parent gone through this script morning after morning, urging a child to wake up and go to school?

Such a ritual may soon be a relic from the past due to Gov. Gavin Newsom signing a bill on Sunday mandating that middle schools begin no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Districts have three years to implement the later start times. It is probably the only bill of the 70 he signed that I agree with.

Allowing children, especially adolescents, to sleep in matches their natural biological clocks.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics has long supported later start times since teenagers tend to stay up later, thus requiring more sleep in the morning; eight to 10 hours of sleep per night is recommended.

Students attending school so early suffer from sleep deprivation interfering with their performance in school.

In a University of Washington study of students attending later-start schools, researchers discovered an increase in student achievement.

Those opposed to this measure are concerned about its negative impact on students’ extracurriculars, mainly sports, because several games begin before or immediately after 3 p.m.

Depending on the sport, some kids already leave class after lunch in order to be at a game. With a later start, those kids will miss even more school. Such an obstacle can easily be resolved by starting the games later.

For parents, dropping off children later may interfere with their work schedules, meaning childcare issues. However, where I work, I often see students as early as 7:30 a.m. hanging out on campus; no big deal.

Starting school later would also benefit employees. It is challenging for a teacher to be fully alert by 8 a.m. to work with 35 children.

For decades, I have trained myself to rise no later than 5:30 a.m. just so I could perform my duties at an optimal level. I would prefer a 9 a.m. start so I could sleep in to 6 a.m. when there is more sunlight than darkness.

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Plus, I would see more of my family before heading off to work.

In addition to starting school later, I would tweak school hours even further by extending the school day by an hour, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

American students traditionally have less time in school than other industrialized countries. An extra 180 hours of instruction over the course of a year could benefit them tremendously.

And, it might even decrease the amount of homework since some of it could be done within the extended school day with the assistance of the teacher right there for help.

My only concern about this new law is that Sacramento legislators felt compelled to mandate this statewide instead of allowing individual school districts to poll their principals, teachers and parents to make an informed decision.

That is why former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it last year.

This is just like the law Newsom signed last month dictating that local districts no longer suspend disruptive students even when they defy their own teachers.

The people in a community should retain control over that community without Big Brother imposing its will.

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Still, parents should welcome this change. With the recent release of middling state test scores in math and English, school children could use any little advantage to help them be more successful.

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