There’s a growing movement to shift high school start times later, in the hopes of better aligning school schedules with the natural sleep schedules of teens. The goal, advocates say, is to make sure students are better rested — and even improve their grades.
In 2019, California governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill Number 328 into law, mandating that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., beginning with the 2022-2023 school year. But students tell Teen Vogue there has been a surprisingly mixed reaction to the move. Some say they appreciate the opportunity to hit the snooze bar, but others say later start times have caused conflicts with their extracurriculars and transportation.
Allison Dana, a 16-year-old junior at the Bay Area’s Albany High School and an Albany Unified student board member, says her district decided to transition to the new schedule this year. For Allison, first period starts at 8:30 a.m. and the school day ends at 4:00 p.m. “I think that students have voiced a lot more disapproval with the schedule,” she tells Teen Vogue. “This [schedule] has affected sports and pretty much everything in our area around after-school activities. It’s been really hard for students to get out of school late.”
The new schedule means that sports practices and after-school extracurriculars, including dance rehearsals and marching band practice, now have later start and end times. Some students, like Allison, say the later start time limits the variety of extracurriculars they can pursue. Allison interns at Google through Code Next, which starts at the same time that she now ends school, making her commute particularly stressful. She has also had to choose between playing club volleyball and high school volleyball because of conflicting practice times.
“Because of school starting later, having the club practice be at five was really detrimental because I had to commute and I had to get ready for both practices,” she explains. “Being mindful about what went on in that timeline and deciding which one to end up pursuing was very difficult for me.”
In addition to extracurricular conflicts, a later start time can create conflicts with parent-work schedules, as many parents often drop off their children before heading to work. Jacky Woo, a high school junior and student board member in the Fullerton Joint Union High School District, says many parents are likely at work by the time the first-period bell rings at 8:30 a.m.
“Even before the schedule change, I’ve heard of students coming to school extra-early on late-start [days] because they don’t have a ride,” Jacky tells Teen Vogue. “There probably are going to be a lot of students who are stranded at school, even an hour before school starts.”
Allison agrees. Although her mom used to be able to drop her off at school for the 8:00 a.m. start, the new start time makes that impossible. “I have to walk to school, bike or find some other means of getting to school, which actually whittles down the amount of time I spend doing homework and those things early in the morning,” Allison says.