Oct. 17, 2021 was a significant day for the redesign of K-12 infrastructure and safety: Governor Newsom took finalizing actions towards signing a law preventing start times of junior high and high school classes before 8:30 a.m. These changes will go into effect at the start of the 2022-23 school year.
According to the CDC, a healthy sleep schedule for 13-18 year olds includes eight to ten hours everyday. As people age, they require less sleep to function properly and remain healthy, but this amount never truly falls below seven hours. Despite this recommendation, meeting someone who consistently achieves this goal has become rare.
Students and teachers alike struggle to reach this sleep schedule goal. Even without a first period, sophomore Soha Siddiqui receives only “six hours of sleep a night,” and head counselor Mrs. Reynoso gets “on average, maybe six-and-a-half, seven hours.”
Many experience a pernicious effect of this lowered sleep on their mental health. The New York Times reported on a study conducted by the University of Minnesota surrounding the topic. After surveying “9,000 students across five school districts with varying start times, [scientists] found that those who started school later slept more. Students who had more sleep reported better mental health outcomes and less use of substances like alcohol and cigarettes. Students who slept more also had improved attendance and enrollment rates, and they were less likely to drive while drowsy.”
But for some on campus, the early mornings and a decreased amount of sleep is not as detrimental as one may assume. A few teachers’ routines require an earlier wake up time to work efficiently, a procedure that will have to adjust to the requirements of the law.
Mrs. Brosche, a math teacher at West Ranch, gets about six hours of sleep a night. “It’s not ideal, but I am good with it,” she said. “A good workout before school gives me the energy I need to get through the day.”
With the significant effect sleep has on mental health, as well as the reliance many daily schedules have on early mornings, would the changes towards later class times be beneficial? The answer is controversial.
Junior Julia Quinones described her perspective: “I’m a bit disappointed because now school is going to get out at four instead of three,” she confessed. “This leaves less time outside of school to myself, which does take a big toll on my mental health. I feel if we get out of school early, I have more time to myself and can manage outside of school activities.”
In contrast, Soha Siddiqui explained that this law would “definitely improve mental health. [I have] friends with a first period that hate it.”
Some educators must keep their own mental health and time in mind when thinking about this adjustment. Teaching first periods is one of the causes of a decreased amount of sleep, but it is also one of the causes of their after-school flexibility in balancing their teaching and personal schedules.
Mrs. Brosche added, “I believe the current options will affect me detrimentally. I like teaching a first period so that I have my open after lunch a couple of times per week. This allows me some flexibility with picking up my children from school and attending their events or helping out in their classrooms.”
Having that flexibility is crucial for many staff to enjoy their time away from the classroom. “With the new schedule,” Brosche continued, “that won’t be an option, and I believe the after-school activities for my family will become more hectic as my schedule becomes less flexible. But as I mentioned earlier, once we adapt to the changes, I’m sure it will be fine.”
The common consensus among West Ranch staff is that it will take a while to adjust. “I think it’s going to be a tough transition for a few years until we really can see if it’s beneficial or detrimental,” said Ms. Reynoso. “Because I think change—we’ve done it the same way for so many years—change is hard, and so I think it will take a little time to figure out.”
West Ranch faculty voted on Friday, March 4, between two possible schedules for the new year. Mr. Crawford met with The Paw Print to discuss the results: “Basically, your regular part of the day is going to look the same—8:30 to 2:50. But the difference is that for most things, first period is going to flip to seventh period.”
This change will also alter the type of classes offered. “For instance, it makes perfect sense for our athletic classes to be done [during] that period, because they already meet at the end of the day,” said Mr. Crawford.
In order to make this transition, some students will be taking a seventh period, and academic classes, alongside sports and marching band already meeting later in the day, will be offered. Seventh period, which will take place from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., will not meet on Fridays, in an effort to make these classes more appealing.
But some classes will remain exempt from these changes. “We will have some very specific classes that can still meet at what we’ll now call zero period,” explained Mr. Crawford. “But it’s only going to be classes that are already embedded in that period and that somehow serve the school, like ASB, Journalism and Advanced Jazz.” Dual enrollment classes will most likely occur during zero period as well.
Mr. Crawford is optimistic that students will adapt well to this schedule. “Change will take time,” he said.