Some Good Snooze for Students

South Pasadena schools may be close to having a later start time after the state Legislature last Friday passed SB 328, authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino.

If signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the bill would make California the first state in the country to mandate that high schools and middle schools start later in the morning, according to a release from Portantino’s office.

The bill is built on more than three decades of research on teen health, sleep patterns and brain chemistry that occurs when school start times line up with the biology of teenagers, his office said.

“When the school day starts later, our children are healthier and perform better in school,” Portantino said.

“I’m over the moon that California has recognized the importance of science and will now put our children’s health and welfare at the forefront of the decision-making process,” Portantino added.

“Generations of children will benefit from starting later in the morning as we know that test scores, attendance and graduation rates all improve after shifting to a later start time. As a parent, I am also pleased that depression, sports injuries, suicidal thoughts and car accidents all decline as well.”

South Pasadena Unified School District stands ready for the transition if the bill is signed, according to School Superintendent Geoff Yantz.

“If the governor signs SB 328, the district is prepared to work collaboratively with the respective local bargaining units, TASP and CSEA, in implementing the shift in school start times,” Yantz told the Review in an emailed statement.

Researchers in Minneapolis started studying the brain chemistry in teens around three decades ago. The findings included that teens require around 10 hours of sleep per night to be healthy but often receive far less.

With a later school-start time, the bill hopes to help teens achieve more sleep and as a result, be healthier and happier. SB 328 was sponsored by the California PTA and the grassroots organization Start School Later. It has a wide swath of support from the health-care community and is based on recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Portantino’s release noted.

“We know this works, we know this doesn’t have to cost extra money and we know this helps kids. We just had to get over the adult barriers and today, through Senator Portantino’s leadership, we were able to accomplish that goal. The California legislature put our children’s health first and it will benefit them in many ways,” said Joy Wake of the group Start School Later.

SB 328 includes a built-in three-year delay in order to give school districts enough time to shift their start times. The release noted that data show that costs typically do not increase in relation to the time shift, but attendance does. The bill will also bring additional Americans with Disabilities Act funds to California schools.

“Senator Portantino has worked closely with the California PTA to put student health first in the conversation,” said Carol Kocivar of the California State PTA.

“When teens get enough sleep, they are safer, healthier and do better in school. The California State PTA is proud to co-sponsor this bill and looks forward to helping implement this historic initiative across our state.”