New bill would change school start times across California

Dylan Fu and Eric Bo-Han Yap

After numerous past discussions of pushing back school start-times in the state of California, the legislation will be going into effect starting Jan. 1, 2018. Photo: Mirjam Swanson, Outlook

With the issue of Palo Alto High School’s bell schedule seemingly settled, a California Senate bill could upturn the status quo once more.

In response to growing concerns of sleep deprivation among all students, specifically high school students, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, proposed Bill 328 on Feb. 17, 2017, hoping to combat the adverse effects of inadequate sleep times on student performance. Now, the bill has been passed in both the senate and the assembly.

The new bill requires all middle and high schools to have a start time no earlier than 8:30 a.m., which would be another delay from Paly’s current 8:20 a.m. start time. 

Portantino and supporters of the proposed law say it is necessary because it addresses health concerns linked to adolescent sleep deprivation, including suicide, depression and car accidents involving teens.

Paly junior Zach Yuen agrees with the aim of the bill, saying, “I still find it hard to get up and focus in the morning and I think this change will make life easier for a lot of students.”

Others, however, haven’t been so quick to endorse the bill. In fact, the California Teachers Association, with which the Palo Alto Educators Association is associated, opposes the bill, saying that the bill is a one-size-fits-all solution.

The CTA claims that school start times should be decided at the local level and include community input because local leaders are best prepared to make decisions that will best meet the needs of the students.

Some Paly students were likewise reluctant to endorse the bill because of the behavior they think it may encourage.

“I don’t think that this new change is a good idea,” junior Colin Duggan said. “I think it will just encourage more students to stay up late at night.”

If signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the new start times will take effect on July 1, 2021, or whenever the district’s agreement with the state expires, whichever one comes first.