California Requires Late Start Times for Middle, High Schools

Kamari Esquerra


“The ability to have a later start time can help them have a more conscious approach,” said Dr. John O’Keffe, Neuro Performance and Leadership Strategist. 

Students are back in school, but this year, they get an extra hour of sleep.  

That’s thanks to a first-of-its-kind mandate in the Golden State requiring that middle schools start no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools 8:30 a.m. – all in an effort to help students get more sleep. 

“Sleep is obviously very important to all thinking processes, and especially for children because they’re more sensitive in their brain development,” said Dr. O’Keffe. “Sleep affects the autonomic nervous system and that affects all of our movements from breathing to heart to hand movements, anything you can think of.”

Sleep also affects the conscious mind and a student’s ability to select and absorb information. 

“We have different brain wave levels,” said Dr. O’Keffe. “Alpha which is relaxation, beta which is consciousness, theta which is creativity and delta which is sleep.” 

He says more sleep will help children be in a higher beta brainwave which helps them be more alert and have more retention for conscious learning.  

“The reason why that’s important is if the children are not quite awake, they stay in a state between alpha and delta and so they’re not quite clear, they’re not quite focused so learning becomes an issue,” said Dr. O’Keffe. 

This is the first year PSUSD is implementing the late start program.

“One of the things we’re looking at is really trying to maximize our morning time with our secondary, specifically at the middle school level,” said Deanna Keuilian, Director of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction for PSUSD. 

Meanwhile, DSUSD already has one year of experience with later class times. 

“I think what we’ve seen is reflected in what the research that has driven that legislation has shown us is that our high school students, our middle school students need that extra hour of sleep,” said Dr. David Gustafson, Director of Secondary Curriculum Instruction and Assessment for DSUSD. 

But school officials warn… 

“It’s very important for us to remember though that even with a late start, that doesn’t give you permission to stay up an hour late, students,” said Dr. Gustafson. “We want kids to be well rested and ready to learn.”

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