A California bill that would change the time school starts at middle and high schools, vetoed in 2018 by former Gov. Brown, has been passed again by the legislature. SB 328 states that middle schools cannot start before 8 a.m. and that high schools cannot start before 8:30 a.m. This Senate Bill currently awaits Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature.
Passing the bill could mean that middle school and high school students would have the opportunity to get more sleep, which could result in teens becoming healthier, more active in school and having lower chances of facing depression. Such results would indeed be positive, but later school start times do not actually guarantee these beneficial outcomes.
First of all, students might not actually get more sleep. According to a Senate Bill Policy Committee analysis, students did get more sleep during the first year when later school start times were implemented. However, in the next year, they continued to go to bed later and later. In other words, students received about the same amount of sleep as they did when school started earlier.
In addition, if school start times are delayed, this would mean that school end times would also be delayed, which in turn would force after-school activities to extend later into the evening. This defeats the purpose of the later start times, as students would return home at later hours and thus go to sleep at later hours.
Secondly, bus schedules could become very complicated if this bill is put into place. Preventing schools from starting before certain times would mean they would all have to start around the same time to prevent school from ending too late in the day. Buses would have to be in many different places at the same time, and more school buses would need to be used in order to resolve this problem. It is predicted to cost the Alameda Contra Costa Transit District around $2 million if more buses are added to cover all the routes to complement the new school start times.
This seems like a pretty pointless investment considering that students may not end up getting more sleep after school start times are changed. Also, some poorer districts may not be able to afford to add and use more buses if schools start after 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. If the main goal of the bill is to let teens sleep more to improve their lifestyles, then there was no reason to pass this bill, especially considering the hefty price tag.
SB 328 would also cause inconvenience for students who walk home after their after-school activities, as they may have to walk home in the dark, which is unsafe. Students who participate in outdoor activities would need to move elsewhere because natural light is only available up to a certain time. This would prevent certain sports teams from practicing for an adequate amount of time, which is disadvantageous since some sports require a large open space that can only be found outside.
Therefore, a bill like this would only be a troublesome short-term solution. Sure, in the beginning, it might help students get a little more sleep, but as time goes on, it will lose effectiveness and create more problems than it will have fixed.