Later start affects students and staff

Last April, the NUSD Board of Trustees approved the Later Start Committee’s proposal to implement a new schedule at the start of the 2017-18 school year. The proposal changed the start time of first period from 7:15 a.m. on block days, and 7:26 a.m. on regular days, to 8:00 a.m. every day. The purpose of the later start time is to respect the natural circadian rhythm of teenagers, which involves going to bed later and waking up later.  

Lack of sleep is dangerous to the health of students. Stress and anxiety levels rise, and signs of depression are more prominent. Students who miss out on sleep are more likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. In addition, the mind’s ability to concentrate and make good decisions is impaired. Students who drive themselves to school must be fully rested to minimize the chance of an accident.

“Students are getting more sleep, hopefully, so they are more awake for first period, and their brains are more awake and more ready to learn,” said English teacher Ms. Karen Arcangelo, adding the students in her morning classes are less sleepy this year.

Science teacher Michelle LaFevre-Bernt has heard fewer complaints about being tired from her morning students; however, art teacher Eleni Katsaros has noticed no change. She said her first period classes have always been alert and engaged.

Teachers are also seeing a decrease in number of tardies.

“Last year, especially on the Tuesdays that were 7:15, I had tons of tardy students. This year on the Tuesday block days, I have almost none,” said Arcangelo.

One of the goals of the Later Start Committee in developing the new schedule was to ensure it would not cause any issues with traffic. The flow of commuter traffic changes at different times in the morning. Co-Athletic Director Dennis Davis said the later start time has helped his commute from Petaluma. Assistant Principal Mike Casper reported he has experienced no issues with traffic near San Marin.  

A later start time also means students leave campus later. A student who takes a seventh period is not dismissed until 3:30 p.m. on a block day. A later end time sometimes conflicts with sports and extracurriculars. Athletes may need to leave class earlier than before to attend afternoon games.   

Junior Sophia Fried is among those concerned about the interference.

“It hurts our learning ability to be taken out of class earlier. We don’t get to have the full experience as a student,” Fried said.

“Game times now are going to interfere with class time, so there is no doubt we are going to see a loss of instructional time,” said Co-Athletic Director Craig Pitti. He added that students who participate in multiple sports are recommended to get a schedule that does not include a seventh period.

San Marin will need to reconstruct its bell schedule if Senate Bill 328 passes, requiring all California middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. by 2020. With an 8:30 start time, students will be dismissed a half hour later than they already are. This will cause even greater conflicts with the current end time.