In an effort to promote the health and wellbeing of students, San Diego Unified School District announced that La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School will start classes an hour later next school year as a part of the Healthy Start Times initiative.
In a press conference held at La Jolla High School, San Diego Unified Board of Education vice president John Lee Evans said that the initiative will not only improve students’ health, emotional wellbeing, and academic achievements but will reduce their risk for athletic injuries as well.
"San Diego over the years has had a standard of starting high schools around 7:30 a.m., which is completely opposite to the circadian rhythms of our students,” he said. “So we're following the CDC guidelines that high school starts no earlier than 8:30 a.m.”
District Physician Consultant Dr. Howard Taras explained the research behind those guidelines, saying that because melatonin is delayed by two hours in teens, they often can't fall asleep until 11 p.m., and thus have a harder time waking up early for school. This reduction in sleep often leads to a lot of issues with behavior, paying attention and depression.
"We find that a lot of kids will achieve better,” Taras said. "They will drive safer if they’re learning to drive. And they will be safer in the sports they participate in."
San Diego Unified plans to implement these new start times district-wide by the fall of 2020, but La Jolla High School and Muirlands Middle School along with the School of Creative and Performing Arts, are starting a year earlier. According to La Jolla High Principal Dr. Chuck Podhorsky, next year school days will begin at 8:35 a.m. and end at 3:16 p.m.
During the press conference, concerns were raised regarded transportation, sports practices, and school schedules.
“There are no school days that syncs with the parents’ work schedule,” Evans said.”Right now some parents are really comfortable dropping off their kids at 7:30 and some are inconvenienced, and the opposite is going to happen when we change it."
There will be some inconvenience to adults, but we’re focusing on the well-being of the students."
Podhorsky said that while nothing has been decided, students have in the past worked with the Parent Teacher Association to start a school-wide carpool for environmental reasons.
“I think any shift is always something new for people, so you have to figure out that means for your family. But for the most part, we have a really good foundation of support. As long as we keep our students at the forefront of the work we do, then all of the details and logistics we'll figure out."
But the students don't seem too concerned about how they'll get to school.
“It’s going to be very helpful to wake up an hour later and get an hour extra of sleep,” said La Jolla High School 10th-grader Austin Kingston during the press conference. "We’re aware of the immense benefits, and we’re aware there’s going to be some issues with transportation, but that’s not for us to figure out. We’re just happy to get an hour extra in bed.”
The district will be holding multiple meetings in May at various high schools across to county to inform parents and students about the benefits of the Healthy Start Times initiative. For more information about the initiative and those meetings, visit sandiegounified.org.