CA schools will start later under new law, local districts prepare for change

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Students across California will soon have an opportunity to get more Z's to help them earn more A's. New state law says all high schools shall begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and all middle schools shall begin no earlier than 8 a.m.

"For us, our middle schools are currently in alignment with that structure. They will require some changes on behalf of our high schools. We're hoping to work with the Governor on how we go about managing our transportation issues to make sure our kids still have safe and appropriate opportunities to get to school on time," said Fresno Unified Superintendent Bob Nelson.

The law includes charter schools but does not apply to rural school districts. The Merced Union High School District plans to look into the possibility of getting rural district exemption, but if it does not qualify then many changes will need to be made.

"It will require a shift in some of our practices as far as transportation of students, before and after school programs, collective bargaining with staff, I know that's going to be an issue," said MUHSD Director of Communications, Sam Yniguez.

Several studies have found that delayed school start times align more closely with the sleep-wake cycle of teenagers, leading to better overall health and school performance.

Michelle Butticci has two current high school students and an eighth-grader. She says they seem more well-rested and prepared on the one day a week when they start school 30 minutes later, but she does worry about the impact on parents.

"I can see where it would be a hardship for the working parents who now have to figure out what to do with their children before heading off to work," Butticci said.

School districts are also aware of that concern and will be looking into new options for students who are dropped off before classes begin.

"We've talked about things like tutoring before school, but that's in its infancy, trying to figure out to do what to do with our kids who are arriving earlier, how can we make that as valuable and productive as we possibly can," Nelson said.

The delayed start times are required to take effect by July 1, 2022, or the date when a district's collective bargaining agreement for 2020 expires, whichever is later.

The districts Action News spoke with say they'll need that time to make all of the necessary changes.
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