California will become the first state in the nation to mandate later start times at most public schools under legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom Sunday, a proposal designed to improve educational outcomes by giving students more sleep.
The new law is not without controversy, though, opposed by some school officials and rejected twice before by lawmakers and Newsom’s predecessor.
The new law will take effect over a phased-in period, ultimately requiring middle schools to begin classes at 8 a.m. or later while high schools will start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. The law does not apply to optional early classes, known as “zero periods,” or to schools in some of the state’s rural districts.
While school schedules vary, a legislative analysis in July found that roughly half the schools in the state will be required to delay their start times by 30 minutes or less to comply with the law. An analysis of the 2011-2012 school year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the average start time for California schools attended by some 3 million middle school and high school students was 8:07 a.m. Some of the state’s students were required to be in class before 7:30 a.m.
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