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San Diego Unified To Help Schools Considering Later Start Times

Milan Kovacevic
The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education building is shown in this photo, Sept. 15, 2017.
San Diego Unified To Help Schools Considering Later Start Times
San Diego Unified To Help Schools Considering Later Start Times GUEST:Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, trustee, San Diego Unified School District

Middle and high schools in the San Diego unified school district can now consider starting classes later in the morning. The school board voted unanimously last night was his schools with information about pushing back class start times to 8:30 AM or later. The issue of later school start times for teenagers has been supported by the American Academy of pediatrics and was considered by the California legislature last year. Joining me is Sharon Whitehurst-Payne , trustee, San Diego Unified School District. The board voted to assist schools in their consideration of rolling back start times. What is that going to include? Right now the superintendent has been given the direction to map out guidelines so that schools can follow that procedure. It has to be financially neutral for the district. They have to get some by in from other parents. I do should not say all but a majority so it is not seen as something that is talk down but that the schools and the clusters will get together and decide what each cluster want to do in terms of parents, community, etc. Reminder what -- remind us what a cluster is question mark It is spearheaded by the high schools in the district. For example Scripps, Lincoln, La Jolla they have a high school and all the schools going up to them. That means that when you start talking about busing issues a lot of times they will align the elementary school children dropped off and then go back and pick up the high school etc. There has to be some alignment within a given cluster. What do you expect the individual schools should take into account as you're coming around and trying to make this decision about start times? I think this is why the board voted unanimously is the thought of what is in the best interest of all the children. For me it is kind of fascinating that we as adults have made decisions all the way through based upon what we would like to see happen versus what is in the best interest of children. The important thing about this study is that the older the children are, the more sleep they need later in the day versus younger. When you know about young children you put them to bed early and they sleep in their up in the morning. So obviously we may have gotten the timing wrong. The older children need to go in collator and the younger children can go in earlier. The state legislature this year rejected a bill that would a mandated later school start times for high schools. That Bill was opposed by the California school Board Association. Why is sending a unified getting behind this idea? I think you have to look at the constituents and the folks that are opposing it. By the way as I understand it I believe it was the Senate that approved it and the assembly did not. Something that I look at is they probably did not want it to be a top-down issue, which is what we are seeing. We are seeing were not going to make this a top-down activity. We wanted to come from the grassroots. We want each cluster to decide what they want to do about it and then work out the logistics of it in conjunction with the district. I think that San Diego unified school district got on board early with making the decision that we want to look at children. That is our number one priority and then we start filtering through how it is it will work best for children. A big objection to middle and high school starting at 8:30 AM or later that many working parents have to be at work at 8:00. They will not be able to get their kids to school or make sure that they go to school. How does that problem get soft? Is not true even for the young kids? It is the same issue wherever way you look at it. A lot of the high school kids drive or they take the bus or -- I'm not sure I buy that argument. It is either they want to school, tried to school and the young once you have to drop them off and if you're going to work, it's easier to drop them off as you go to work. So at school you can drop them off at school rather than having to take them to daycare and then the take -- daycare takes them over. I don't see that as an issue. If a district decides it does want to start classes later, what is the next step? The board is going to look at the entire package on how this impacts the busing situation for the district whether or not there is any cost to the district . We will look at how much input came in from other sectors. We will look at it as a package and then see how that's going to impact the entire system and then you will make a decision. After we get the packets back from the school, then we will make a decision based upon all the factors . We will weigh the costs, the input from parents and the community folks. We will weigh all the components and decide whether or not that school can do that. I've been speaking with Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, trustee, San Diego Unified School District. Thank you so much. Thank you.

San Diego Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to assist middle schools and high schools that want to start classes later.

The board voted to give more information to schools about the benefits and logistical issues of moving the school start time to 8:30 a.m. or later.


The policy change is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which conducted a study that said it would improve the health of teenage students by aligning school schedules to their biological sleep rhythms.

"The fact is that two out of three students are sleep deprived and we all know what sleep deprivation can do," board member John Lee Evans said.

Evans, who is in favor of the change, said the plan is not to abruptly do a district-wide schedule overhaul, but rather let individual schools decide if the option works for their staff, students and parents. They would then go through a process to request the change to the school district, the second largest in the state.

Dozens of students, parents and teachers spoke in favor of the proposal at Tuesday's board meeting, saying it would benefit their involvement in extracurricular activities, their academic performance and would allow them to have more energy and be more alert during morning classes.

"Early school start times are doing great harm to students in the school district," Beth McNeil, a parent, said. "Those kids who work jobs until late at night, those kids who have to get on the bus at 6 a.m., they are harmed the most by early school times."


Critics of the policy change point to a schedule mismatch with bus schedules and a potential inconvenience for working parents. Evans still said the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, adding the change would improve students physical and emotional health.

"It's not going to be a simple change, logistically and with what is possible within the existing resources, Evans added. "It's a complicated puzzle to gradually get schools on a later start time. But let's look at it through the point of view of what is best for the students."

Board member Michael McQuary said the science and documentation is already available in support of later school start times.

"I don't think it's about finding new information, but rather on how do we do it," McQuary said.