NUSD high schools adjust to later start and end times

The bell schedule for the 2021-2022 school year has been altered to a later start and end time, starting at 8:30am and ending as late as 3:42pm for those with seven periods. Senate Bill 328 requires a later start time, and will officially go into effect July 2022. NUSD has implemented this schedule change early to allow students an adjustment period.

The later start and school release times have both students and staff feeling lower participation levels later in the day.

“Once you hit 3 o’clock, the energy starts to drop,” Principal Mark Sims said. “People lose engagement, it’s just hard to sustain that.” 

On Sept. 12th, a survey was sent out from Sims to be later discussed with the Southern California district asking students to respond to how they felt about the late start time and its effect on their sleep schedule. This poll had a total of 361 respondents, with 58% of students preferring the late start, 34% disliking the new time, and 8% with no opinion.

“I don’t have a job anymore because of school and sports, it was just way too much. There’s not enough hours in the day,” senior Nicole Shroyer said.

A different question from the survey reported 57% of students felt their lives after school, including jobs and extracurriculars, are being affected by the late start and end times. 

“I think the 3:42 end time is too late because it eats away at the rest of our days, which pushes back sports and extracurriculars,” junior Gabby Bailey said. “It pushed them far into the evening which doesn’t give me ample time to do my homework. I’m doing it until twelve or one in the morning so I can balance everything.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly supports the 8:30am start time, arguing that later school start times align better with teens’ natural circadian rhythm. Yet some, including Sims, feel otherwise. 

“I don’t think [the late start time] benefits student sleep,” Sims said. “I had a few students tell me last year, ‘we’re just gonna stay up later, so we’re not really changing that pattern.’”

The AAP also found that the average student sleeps an extra 45 minutes a night with the shift from 8am to 8:30am start times. Compared to the San Marin survey, 33% of respondents felt an increase in sleep from previous years, 22% reported less sleep, and 45% found no change in their sleep.

“I’m in between, it doesn’t really affect me,” senior Marie Fehring said. “Half an hour doesn’t make much of a difference.”

Teachers have expressed their personal lives have been negatively affected. Especially those with children who feel there is less time in the day to spend with family. 

“With two young kids at home, it’s pretty rough,” Health teacher and varsity football coach Cory Boyd said. “There are days where I get to see my kids for maybe ten minutes in the morning, and then I don’t really see them until the next morning.”

The longer days also leave many teachers feeling mentally drained towards the end of the day.

“The 3:42 end time feels really late,” STEM teacher Nick Williams said. “I find around 3:15, my mental clock is like ‘alright we gotta be just about done.’”

The bell schedule is a persistent issue at San Marin that the administration has tried to resolve. As of this year, many people are still displeased and are unsure how to tackle this problem further.

“I have no good solutions,” Williams said. “I recognize that in order to fit whatever the allotted number of minutes is, we can’t start at 8:30 and get out at 2:30. There isn’t a way to fix that.”

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