Later Start Time Proposed For Novato School District Students

NOVATO (KPIX 5) — Students in Marin County may be able to get a little extra sleep in the morning as the largest district in the county is considering whether or not to push back the start time.

On some mornings the bell at Novato High School rings as early as 7:15.  But in Josh Rosenberg’s world history class, if some of the kids seem a little groggy, he doesn’t take it personally.

“A lot of these students say their alarms are going off at 4:30, 5 a.m., and we expect them to stay energized and focused and full of enthusiasm,” Rosenberg said.

“You know, if they’re coming to school very tired and they have two cups of coffee and a Red Bull, health-wise, that’s not good,” Novato Unified School District Assistant Superintendent Ivan Chaidez said.

At the district office, the data shows student performance is slipping, and they believe kids just aren’t getting enough sleep.

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees.

It’s now recommending that middle and high schools start later, saying teens need at least 9.5 hours of shuteye.  Studies also show that teens stay up late at night because their bodies are naturally programmed to do so.

“These studies have shown that they can’t go to bed before a certain time, but they also need nine to 10 hours of sleep because they’re growing kids,” Novato High School Principal Matt Baldwin said.

So, the district is studying its schedules to see if it might be possible to start middle and high schools at, 8:30 or 9 a.m.

But, that won’t be easy.

Starting later would probably mean ending later, and that would impact after-school activities and sports programs, especially in a district where the practice fields don’t have lights.  Also, many students have after-school jobs and parents may not be able to drop kids off at a later hour.  The district says it will consider all of this.

“You know, there’s pros and there’s cons.  But at the end, it’s not about us, it’s about our students, it’s about our children, and what’s going to help them be successful in the classroom,” Baldwin said.

And that’s not easy to do when your body just wants to sleep.

Other districts in the Bay Area are already trying later start times, including schools in Napa, and American Canyon that begin classes at 8:30 a.m.

More from John Ramos
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