Late school start times may mean some San Diego elementary schools start earlier

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jan 31, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-01 16:47:04-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — California's new law requiring most public middle and high schools to start their school day later may mean earlier starts for younger children.

Roughly half of the elementary schools in the San Diego Unified School District already start between 7:30 and 8:00 a.m., but about ten schools start later. They could see significant changes in their routines.

Spreckels Elementary in University City is one of them.

"This was just kind of thrown on us two weeks ago, had we known this was coming, it might have been something we could have discussed," said Kristi Walsh.

Walsh said one of the reasons she chose Spreckels for her two children is for the later start time of 8:55 a.m.

"People 'choiced' into this school because of that time because it works with their schedule. So, when you 'choice' in somewhere, and that's your schedule that works with your work and your family and then having to go back an hour and a half, that's a really big drastic change," said Walsh.

The district is proposing changing the start time to 7:30 a.m.

"There's so much research about how much sleep young kids need for their brain development, so having them get up earlier so the high school can have a later start time is not the impact they want to see from this," said Walsh.

San Diego Board of Education President John Lee Evans said the earlier start is needed to accommodate the bus schedules.

"We knew financially, just transportation wise, if we're moving some schools later, other schools are going to have to move earlier," said Evans.

The new law doesn't take effect until 2022. It requires high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. Middle schools are prohibited from starting earlier than 8 a.m.

Many districts are already making the changes. San Diego Unified will fully implement the earlier starts this coming fall.

"We have bus drivers go out, and they do an early route and they come back, and then they do a later route, so it's a real complicated puzzle, and so the district really works very carefully to see what each community needs," said Evans.

Walsh said parents who rely on after-school childcare are especially worried.

"That is going to be a huge thing for some parents because the expense of the extra added school time or the aftercare is going to be more expensive, and some parents are not going to be able to incur that cost," said Walsh.

The district has already implemented the later starts at three schools. Evans said the early data is encouraging.

"There's been a reduction in terms of tardiness, a reduction in absences, suspensions," said Evans.

Evans said the district is still gathering feedback from the community. A decision hasn't been made yet regarding an earlier start time at Spreckels.

Walsh and other parents are hoping for a compromise.