Attention parents and students in the Temecula Valley Unified School District: If you think high school starts too early at 7:30 a.m. and elementary school starts too late at 9 a.m., now is the time to speak out in support of later or earlier start times.
The district is surveying parents to determine if they support changing the start times to better accommodate modern student lifestyles, especially for sleep-deprived, night owl high school students.
Visit the district’s website at www.tvusd.k12.ca.us to take the brief online survey.
It was posted on the website the week of Aug. 20 and is expected to be posted online for a month, through about mid-September, said TVUSD spokeswoman Melanie Norton.
The issue of school start times– in particular, the advantages to teens of starting school later in the morning — isn’t a new one. It’s been debated locally in the past and also is the subject of ongoing debate nationwide.
“The dilemma has always been sports and after-school activities,” said Norton, noting that many students also are in band and other programs that meet after school. She said the board decided it’s time for a serious look at the issue.
In March, the district’s Assistant Superintendent of Education Support Services, Jodi McClay, made a presentation to the Governing Board about school start times.
The district is now surveying parents to gather feedback and once McClay is finished collecting survey results, she will present those findings as well as a more detailed proposal about different start times to the school board sometime this fall, Norton said. She said McClay also is talking to school principals and other stakeholders.
Currently, high school hours for TVUSD schools are 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; middle school runs from 8:15 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. and elementary school goes from 8:55 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.
According to the research McClay presented to the school board in March, it’s natural due to biology for teens to stay up late – until 11 p.m. or later – and wake up later in the morning. They often feel wide-awake at bedtime even if they are exhausted so they feel tired in the morning.
Teens need 9.25 hours of sleep per night but usually don’t get it.
“Teenagers in the U.S. are seriously sleep-deprived,” according to the presentation. This harms their ability to perform academically, deal with stress, solve problems and retain information, the presentation stated. Other side effects of being sleep deprived include depression, irritability, poor impulse control, health complaints, decrease in academic and athletic performance and alcohol or tobacco use, according to the presentation.
The report said schools or districts in 19 states have pushed back start times and over 100 school districts and 17 states are considering doing so as well. Pushing back early start times has many advantages such as reducing tardiness and absenteeism, improving students’ grades and reducing depression, among other benefits, the report stated.
A few new scenarios were presented:
- High school could run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.; middle school would go from 8 a.m. to 2:30; and elementary school would run from 8 a.m. to 2:25 p.m.
- A flex time schedule could be implemented: high school would run from either 7:45 to 2:45 or 8:45 to 3:45; middle school would run from 7:45 to 2:15 and elementary school would be from 7:50 to 2:15.
Challenges would include altering busing and staffing schedules as well as possible conflicts with extra-curricular activities and athletics.
Amy Bentley is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.