High school athletes would be put in a bigger time squeeze with less time for studying and possibly miss more classes if Gov. Jerry Brown signs legislation to require public schools to delay the start of 7th through 12th grade classes until 8:30 a.m. starting in 2021.
Manteca Unified Assistant Superintendent Roger Goatcher noted not only would middle and high school students be impacted but it also would likely cause a shift in elementary start and end times due to districtwide considerations such as busing rural students.
Legislators that backed the bill cited studies that contend preteens and teens sleeping in longer are more attentive in class as the later start time would curb the “impact of sleep deprivation on adolescents.”
The California School Board Association is among those lobbying Brown not to sign the measure. The governor has until the end of the month to decide. If he opts to do nothing the bill would automatically become law. The CSBA is critical of what it has called “a one size first all approach” noting local school boards and educators are better positioned to determine the best start times in their particular communities.
Currently Manteca high schools start classes at 7:22 a.m. and the final bell rings at 2:31 p.m. Forcing a later start time no sooner than 8:30 a.m. would mean the final dismissal would be at 3:39 p.m.
Goatcher said the later start could also impact clubs and other non-sport activities as there would be less time after school given students as well as teachers have other obligations such as family.
Cross-country, as an example, shows how the move to a later start time could reduce class time. Given that students have to travel to meets to run on courses that rely on daylight to navigate safely, Goatcher said cross-country team members would have to miss additional classes than they already do.
The assistant superintendent said some have countered the sports impact argument by saying practices could be conducted before school. But if a practice takes 90 minutes — plus 15 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to shower — most athletes would have to get up by no later than 6 a.m. that could actually increase sleep deprivation.
“The coaches also have to prepare for classes,” Goatcher noted.
Then there is the issue of whether non-faculty coaches or assistants could be retained with morning practices due to job commitments. Also practices starting after 4 p.m. would run later and cut into homework time unless teen athletes stayed up late which would negate the goal of the proposed late start mandate.
When the late start measure was proposed last year but rejected by the legislature, district officials said a later start could create problems for many families in Manteca Unified where both parents commute to the Bay Area. It would likely leave more children alone in the morning to prepare for school. Child care could become even trickier for parents.
At the same time school dismissal at 3:39 p.m. would encroach on the afternoon commute adding to street congestion and possibly increasing the time it takes to run bus routes.
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