The last thing students need now is less stability, less routine and less predictability – this is not the time for more changes.
By Jeremy Adams, Special to CalMatters
Jeremy Adams is a teacher at Bakersfield High School. He is the author of the recently-released book “Hollowed Out: A Warning About America’s Next Generation.”
Almost three years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 328 which would require high schools next fall to push start times back to 8:30 a.m.
While policymakers certainly meant well, this is absolutely not the time to institute this profound change in California schools. It is imperative that the Legislature and Newsom seriously and immediately consider reversing, or at the very least, delaying, the implementation of this law.
Our education system, from top to bottom, is overwhelmed. If I didn’t work on a school campus, I absolutely would not understand the dire circumstances of the educational community. Lawmakers and leaders need to listen and listen well.
So, let me be crystal clear: this is a disaster in the making.
Trustees are burned out and tired of being yelled at by everyone with an axe to grind. Administrators are colossally overwhelmed and frankly look like zombies these days as they pivot from one crisis to the next. Teachers are demoralized, dis-spirited, and honestly, many of us are at a breaking point as we consider what to do next in our careers. Parents trying to work, maintain a schedule and cover all the bases can’t keep up.
The last thing students need right now is less stability, less routine and less predictability from one year to the next. This is not the time for more changes.
Many large school districts in the state scatter their bus schedules so they don’t have to purchase such a large fleet of expensive buses. Putting aside the fact that there aren’t enough bus drivers as it is, a mandatory start time of 8:30 a.m. will really mean a start time of roughly 9:30 a.m. for half of the schools in some of these large districts like mine.
Consider what this will mean for the thousands of children and parents who will begin their school day this late:
Parents who drop their children off for school will no longer be able to do so since they will presumably have to be at work much earlier than their child’s new start time. What are they supposed to do if their child is a transfer student and no bus is available, as many are?
Students will be ending the school day close to 4:30 in the afternoon. Not only is it almost dark in the winter months, but consider the plight of students who want to play sports, or act in the school play, or get involved in any number of activities. Any practice that begins at 5 p.m. is anathema to students trying to get homework done, eat a meal with their family or actually enjoy a little bit of free time. Many will certainly stay up half the night doing homework because they are getting home so late. Students will merely stay up later than they already are.
The last thing students need right now is more stress and more anxiety.
Teachers who serve as coaches and advisers will no longer be willing to help out after school when they have their own families to take care of. It is one thing to coach from 3-5 p.m. in the afternoon, and an entirely different obligation asking teachers with young children to come home after 7 p.m.
Sports practices will be moved from afternoon practices to before school; thus, entirely defeating the purpose of delaying a school’s start time. When teams have games and competitions, many of them, like baseball, tennis or golf, must be conducted in the afternoon. This will result in student-athletes missing a colossal amount of class time for the duration of the sports season.
Ultimately, this law will become a case study in “unintended consequences.” For the sake of everyone who works or attends a California high school, please put the brakes on before it is too late.