School would start later for teens under proposed state bill - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

School would start later for teens under proposed state bill

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A Southern California senator is trying to change school start times for students across the state. 

Senate Bill 328, introduced by Sen. Anthony Portantino, would require junior high and high school students to start school no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Most high schools in Santa Maria have their first day of school on Wednesday, and for a lot of them, first period starts at 7:30 a.m. Many of the junior high schools in the area start next week at around 8 a.m. 

Some teachers say they prefer the early start times.

"I've always had a first period class that starts at 7:30 and my students are really good about coming to class. I've never had an attendance problem," said Lisa Walters, Pioneer Valley High School Activities Director.

The California State PTA says research shows that later school start times improve student health and academic success. However, school staff members say they could also impact other areas of life for students and parents.

"I understand where the research comes from but our parents are trying to get to work in the morning and they have to be at work at 8 o'clock, and if we set the times later, then that means they are that much later getting their kids to school," said Walters.

A bill to roll forward the clock is making its way through the state legislature and is currently in an Assembly committee. 

"For me as a teacher, the earlier the better," said Tony Ramos, an educator for more than 40 years. 

Ramos says he doesn't see an advantage to later start times.

"Making the day go longer, sports starting longer, making their day longer for coaches. As a parent, that would be a struggle to get my kids to bed on time," said Ramos, Pioneer Valley High School's Physical Education teacher.

A local pediatrician says later start times could allow kids to get more sleep, which is good for youth brain development.

"There's an abundance of evidence that kids need more sleep. Adolescences can't fall asleep until 11 approximately, anyways. They are on a different schedule and their deepest sleep is when they are waking up to catch the bus," said Pediatrician Robert Barry, MD.

However, some students say they would prefer to start early to get home sooner.

"I feel like if we were to start later, then we'd have to get out later because of cheer or sports practice," said Alicia Rodriguez, senior at Pioneer Valley High School. 

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, whose district covers San Luis Obispo County and northern Santa Barbara County, told KSBY, "A one-size-fits-all policy is not appropriate. Local school districts should be making decisions that are best for students, parents, and teachers.  As a former school board member and a father of four school-aged children, I am keenly aware of the burden this bill could impose on families trying to balance work and childcare." 

If the bill is passed, it would take effect in 2020.

Right now, the state legislature is in its summer recess but will be back in session later this month.

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