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First day of school begins with a new late start law

School started, today, for thousands of students in the South Bay. For most of them, classes started later in the day than usual. KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez went to the Sweetwater Union High School District and has more on the new late-start schedule and its consequences.

School started Wednesday for thousands of students in the South Bay who attend year-round campuses. For most of them, classes began later in the morning than usual.

Parents in the Sweetwater Union High School District had some extra time to get their kids to school because of a state law that's now in effect.

The California legislature passed a law in 2019 that says middle schools can not begin before 8:00 a.m. and high schools can’t start before 8:30 a.m.

That’s more than an hour later than it was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is the first school year with the late-start schedule, which is supposed to allow students to get a good night’s sleep and arrive for class rested and ready to learn.

I think it’s good because I have more chances to get ready, but also I don’t like the new schedule they have for after school,” said Joanna Michelle who is a senior at Castle Park High School in Chula Vista.

The late start also means the school day doesn’t end until 3:30 or 4 p.m. pushing extracurricular activities even later than that.

Parental views of the new schedule were mixed.

Daryl Davis is a parent in the Sweetwater Union High School District and he's happy to drop off his son at the new time.

"If you’re rushed, you get to school, you’re tired. You don’t feel like doing anything," Davis said. "Late start is the business! This is what we should have been doing a long time ago. They should have put everybody on banker’s hours.”

But Vanessa Gomez, another parent in the morning drop-off line at Castle Park High School saw the change as another thing to complicate her life.

It’s going to be a little bit harder for me, to be honest. Because I have another kid in elementary and it’s going to mess up their schedule and my work, as well,” Gomez said.

Bill Walsh is the principal at nearby Castle Park Middle School. He told KPBS News that he and his staff are committed to keeping their 750 students safe and to teaching them lessons in respect and responsibility this semester.

Students will now be responsible for an appropriate bedtime that will bring them the advantage of starting school later.

“That's part of the transition to middle school is making choices as a young adult so you can be more successful,” he said.

Many parents drop off their kids early to get to work on time. So now they need child care prior to school. The San Diego Foundation which specializes in solutions to problems faced by underserved families commissioned a study by the University of San Diego’s Non-Profit Institute.

“Child care is very much linked to workforce development, and if you don’t have good quality child care options, then families can’t find and maintain stable employment,” said Tessa Tinkler, the Institute's Research Director.

The USD study found that 75% of parents in San Diego County don’t have the child care they need. So, the first day of school could be just the beginning of another challenging year.

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