• a girl sleeps next books and papers with pen in hand

      Sleeping while studying (Photo – Psy3330 W10)

      For several years, there has been an effort at the state level to move the start time for secondary schools to later in the morning. This effort has been supported by California State PTA, the Center for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and dozens of other organizations who follow matters of youth health.

      By Patrick Cahalan

      This research and advocacy prompted State Senator Anthony Portantino to sponsor bill SB 328 back in 2018.  The bill was approved by the legislature, but then vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown.  In 2019, Senator Portantino re-submitted his bill, which again passed the legislature and this time was signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

      SB 328 imposes a start time for the regular school day of no earlier than 8:15 am for middle school and no earlier than 8:30 am for high schools, beginning with the 2022-2023 academic year.  High schools are permitted to have a “zero period” elective period that starts before 8:30 and the bill does not prohibit extracurriculars from having activities prior to 8:30 am.

      The open question for school districts across California is when to implement late start.  This was a conversation at the Board level in PUSD in 2019-2020.  This was interrupted when the pandemic struck and threw much of our long-term planning on the back burner, as we dealt with the immediate crisis and the hundreds of changes our teachers, administrators, and support staff had to make to accommodate learning under an ongoing health crisis.

      One of the changes made to support distance and hybrid learning in PUSD during the 2020-2021 academic year was a change in start time which complied with SB 328. Stand-alone middle schools began at 8:15 am. High schools and our two 6-12 schools started at 8:30 am.  But, of course, distance learning is different from in-person learning, where support staff and teachers need to commute to their work location prior to the start of the work day, and children and parents also need to get up early enough to get ready for school (including travel time).

      Scheduling Options

      The question before us now, therefore, was whether to:

      (a) Revert to pre-pandemic start times, which have pre-pandemic processes already well established for everything from food preparation to when the head custodian closes the campus for the day… which would then require us to alter our start times for the following academic year to align with SB 328 in this year, or

      (b) Move to a set of start times that aligns with SB 328, which would require us to make changes to those processes, or

      (c) Explore additional changes, including altering start times for elementary schools, with an implementation either this year or next.

      learn french adWhile it may seem like these are relatively straightforward decisions, like most things involving public education it is not quite as simple as it seems at first glance.  Pasadena Unified “re-used” buses, for example, in the last year in which we had in-person learning, where one bus could be used to transport a student who had an earlier start time, and then that same bus and driver could be repurposed to pick up a different student for arrival at another school with a later start time.  Afternoon athletics start times and departure times for team travel are impacted, either by moving athletic events to later in the day, which is problematic for evening sports particularly in the winter, or having students leave campus on days their team travels earlier, which requires them to miss classroom instruction. Those are just two of dozens of logistic issues that are affected by a change in the start time.

      On June 3rd, at a special board meeting, the PUSD board had a discussion about the late start options.  Staff presented three options, covering both secondary and elementary.  The board discussion was wide ranging and covered additional related impacts to the school day, including bell schedules at secondary.  The factors that were of most concern to the board were the impacts on transportation and the impacts, particularly at elementary, on the possible necessity for expanded care options if elementary school times were also changed.

      In the end, there was strong board support for changing the start times for middle and high schools, and a desire for more analysis going forward on how changes at the elementary level may impact our parent community and transportation costs.

      Hybrid Schedule Adopted

      The Pasadena School Board voted, 7-0, to adopt a hybrid of two of the options.

      • Of most concern to parents, and to comply with the law, the middle and high schools are moving to later start beginning in the 2021-22 academic year.
      • The elementary schools will revert to their pre-pandemic start times for the upcoming 2021-2022 year alone, with further study on site conditions forthcoming.

      With the Summer break starting shortly, this likely will not come back to the Board until some time after the start of the new school year. As this will impact parent decisions for open enrollment, however, there’s a strong incentive to resolve the question of elementary prior to the beginning of the open enrollment process mid-year.

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      1. Harvey Cordner says:

        Don’t consider – Just Do…

      2. Dorothy Wong says:

        Also walking or rolling to school has its benefits. Exercise is key! Safe Routes to Schools implementation is also a huge benefit to the community!

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