LCUSD Says Late Start Reaction Trending Positive

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Midway through the school year, La Cañada High School and 7/8 students seem to be taking the experiment of late start well, although administrators await the winter and spring sports seasons to hit their stride for additional input.
Jim Cartnal, executive director of pupil and personnel programs and services for LCUSD, shared preliminary data at Tuesday’s La Cañada Unified Governing Board meeting. Surveys have indicated the students are “by and large” in favor of the later school start times of 8:30 a.m. as opposed to 7:45 a.m., even if it didn’t necessarily mean they were getting additional sleep as intended.
“Openly, it’s a mixed bag,” Cartnal said. “Kids are getting some more sleep, but not all kids are getting more sleep.”
LCUSD implemented late start this year to test its efficacy after trying it out only on Tuesdays the previous school year. Encouragement came from state Sen. Anthony Portantino, who has attempted to enact late start statewide based on mounting scientific evidence that teenagers are paying the developmental consequences for not getting their required nine-plus hours of sleep each night and that early morning school start times — in addition to piled-on schoolwork — are to blame.
Cartnal presented a slideshow update to the Governing Board, complete with charted survey results from students, faculty and parents about how they felt about a variety of late start-related results. Of 410 responses, 41% of students at LCHS “strongly agreed” they were getting more sleep each night and 37.8% “agreed” they were getting more. Also, 12.9% “disagreed” they were getting more sleep and 8.3% “strongly disagreed.”
At LCHS 7/8, 38% of the 76 responses strongly agreed they were getting more sleep, 46.1% agreed, 8% disagreed and 7.9% strongly disagreed.
Nevertheless, Cartnal pointed out that regardless of agreeing or disagreeing about getting more sleep, students generally found their starts to the day calmer and slower-paced than before, which they regarded as an improvement.
Parents fell along similar lines in their responses. Of the 552 respondents at LCHS, 48.7% strongly agreed their high school student was getting more sleep, 23.4% agreed, 13.9% disagreed and 13.9% strongly disagreed. At 7/8, of 322 responses, 59.6% strongly agreed their middle school student was getting more sleep, 22.7% agreed, 9% disagreed and 8.7% strongly disagreed.
Faculty and support staff also were surveyed for their late-start perceptions. Forty-five teachers at LCHS responded, of whom 68.9% believed late start was beneficial for students, with 24.4% believing it was neither helpful nor harmful and 6.7% believing it was not beneficial. Among 43 responses, 65.1% of teachers felt students were more alert and ready to learn at 8:30 a.m., with the rest not observing any difference from before.
At LCHS, seven of the 10 support staffers surveyed said late start was beneficial for students, with two saying it wasn’t helpful or harmful and one saying it was not beneficial.
Of the 23 responding faculty members at 7/8, 65.2% believed late start was beneficial for students, with 26.1% thinking it wasn’t helpful or harmful and 8.7% believing it was not beneficial.
Cartnal also explained how teachers were making use of the extra time in mornings. At both schools, teachers are commonly supervising makeup work, tutoring students, conferencing with students or parents, working with student organizations or conducting a variety of meetings.
Moving forward, Cartnal said he hoped to get more input from student athletes on late start, particularly those who have to be excused from afternoon classes to go to away games and matches. The winter sports enter league play this week, he said, and fall sports did not present as many opportunities for observance.
“It’s not our busiest season,” Cartnal said. “Winter and spring are where most of our sports teams are.”
The district plans to address whether to make the late start change permanent in April.
As for other input on late start, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said that at a recent meeting with the Spartan Boosters Club, prior concerns about teachers being unwilling to help student athletes who missed time seemed to have been assuaged, although some members continue to voice general opposition to late start.
Cartnal added that some parent and faculty respondents in his surveys, regardless of their answers, felt the questions were phrased in ways that provoked a bias in favor of late start.
Sinnette said there had been no decisions — or even discussion — within the Rio Hondo League about changing start times for sporting events accordingly.
“There’s not much traction,” Sinnette said.

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