LCUSD to Hold Workshop on Later Start to School Day

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State Sen. Anthony Portantino might be close to winning support from school leaders in his own city for a bill that would require middle schools and high schools to start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Finding the benefits of later start times compelling, La Cañada Unified School District Superintendent Wendy Sinnette hopes to discuss opportunities and challenges related to the proposal at a public workshop, scheduled for 7-8:30 p.m. on Monday, May 22, at the district office round building.
The Governing Board is weighing whether to support a resolution backing the bill, but at its meeting Tuesday night, its members sought a dialogue with parents before deciding.
“There’s a lot of theoretical support,” Governing Board President Dan Jeffries said. “It all sounds good in line with the research, but I don’t know if we’ve gone to the community and said, ‘If we did it, would this work for you?’”
Currently, “zero” period at La Cañada High School begins at 6:42 a.m.; first period starts at 7:45 a.m.
Portantino’s proposal — Senate Bill 328 — cites the American Academy of Pediatrics, which in 2014 stated that insufficient sleep for teenage adolescents poses a public health risk and has an adverse academic affect.
At a town hall meeting hosted by Portantino last month in Pasadena, Terry Cralle, a certified clinical sleep educator, warned of potential problems associated with insufficient sleep. Teens who get less than nine hours per night can experience increased stress levels, impaired alertness and health, depression, mental illness, violence, addiction, suicide and car crashes, she said.
On Tuesday, Sinnette tied the research to the Challenge Success program with which LCUSD has engaged closely this year.
“It emphasizes student health and wellness, and one of their across-the-board recommended changes is students getting more sleep on school nights,” Sinnette said. “And Challenge Success advocating for this has prompted us to consider the merits of Sen. Portantino’s bill.”
But she noted the district also should consider concerns that the bill would diminish local control by forcing all districts across the state to change their bell schedules. Working parents also have expressed concerns about the logistics of dropping off students and getting to their jobs in the morning, Sinnette said, as well as those in after-school activities that could be affected by a later release from sixth period.
She said she can envision mitigating measures, such as support staff on site for early drop-offs and possibly recalibrating sixth period so it “minimally impacts instruction time for early release” — all ideas she plans to share at the workshop, she said.
“Vetting those concerns and issues with a group mindset would at least allow us to see a pathway, if it’s viable or not,” she said.
“And even if it works great for our district,” Jeffries said, “we don’t know if it will work well up and down the state. But should we look into doing it voluntarily, just as our district?”

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