Some school administrators unhappy with state pushing back school start times
One of a slew of bills recently signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom included delaying start times for middle and high schools to 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m., respectively.
The law doesn’t go into effect until July 2022, and provides an exemption for “rural school districts,” but doesn’t explain what “rural” means in this context.
In western Nevada County, the bill likely won’t affect many schools because many public non-charter school districts have already pushed back their start times, and because schools may fall under the rural exemption.
“I don’t think it will impact anyone right now,” said Nevada County Superintendent of Schools Scott Lay, echoing what other superintendents told him.
Grass Valley and Twin Ridges school district administrators confirmed they have later start times.
When the Nevada Joint Union High School District adopted a later start three years ago, the Grass Valley School District had to find a new busing system. The cost has been $350,000 each year since the change occurred, Superintendent Eric Fredrickson said.
LOCAL CONTROL ISSUE
Although many local schools are already in compliance, some still don’t like the law.
It’s “taking away local control,” said Lay.
Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Brett McFadden agreed.
“We don’t need the state to tell us what we need to do,” he said.
Both Lay and McFadden believe the measure is stripping local control, evoking a bit of hypocrisy — considering state laws that prioritize local control — and is somewhat undemocratic.
“When Nevada Union decided on a later start, there was a lot of ground work that went into that,” said Lay.
Lay and McFadden believe school districts already have the tools, knowledge and organization to make good decisions.
Both administrators also believe the science that supports moving start times back as being better for teens’ health is mixed.
“Absenteeism?” asked McFadden rhetorically. Student achievement? Suspension rates? None of these have improved in the district since the later times were implemented, he said, adding, “I’m still hearing that kids aren’t getting enough sleep.”
In fact, Lay said he was told more students in the Nevada Joint Union High School District are showing up for zero period, which begins prior to first period and allows athletes and students to use school resources before school starts.
It’s unclear as to whether students show up to zero period because they want to or because they are encouraged to by parents, teachers or coaches.
TAHOE-TRUCKEE UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
In December, the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District analyzed whether pushing back start times would prove fruitful, said Kelli Twomey, district coordinator of parent and community relations. A specific committee was created for this purpose.
Twomey said it looked at feasibility, student, parent and faculty demand as well as the cost.
Much of the problem was related to home-to-school transportation, since the district provided busing for 85% of its students as of last year, said Twomey. It uses staggered start times to pick up everyone. Getting students to school at a later time, she said, wouldn’t be feasible in a district that spans so much land.
Twomey said it would also cost the district $4 million, which the state won’t cover with the new legislation.
As such, at a May 1 meeting: “(The committee’s) recommendation to the board was no change to our bell schedule,” said Twomey.
The Tahoe-Truckee school district — like others possibly considered rural under the legislation — doesn’t know whether it will be affected by the law.
To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4219.
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