Lodi coaches un­happy with school start time law

Lodi News-Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Wes Bow­ers NEWS-SENTINEL STAFF WRITER

LODI — The pres­i­dent of Lodi Uni­fied School District’s Board of Ed­u­ca­tion said that a bill signed by Gov. Gavin New­som will throw a mon­key wrench in peo­ple’s lives.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed,” LUSD board pres­i­dent Gary Knack­st­edt said. “I think sched­ul­ing should be left up to the com­mu­ni­ties and their boards of ed­u­ca­tion. This is just more gov­ern­ment in­tru­sion that isn’t ap­pro­pri­ate.”

On Sun­day, New­som signed leg­is­la­tion man­dat­ing later start times for mid­dle schools and high schools across the state, sid­ing with pe­di­a­tri­cians rather than teacher unions, school boards and su­per­in­ten­dents.

Au­thored by Sen­a­tor An­thony Por­tantino, D-San Fer­nando, Se­nate Bill 328 will re­quire mid­dle school to start no ear­lier than 8 a.m. and high schools to start no ear­lier than 8:30 a.m.

Dis­tricts in ru­ral ar­eas would be ex­empt due to bus sched­ul­ing chal­lenges, as well as those that of­fer ‘zero pe­ri­ods,’ or classes of­fered by some schools be­fore the reg­u­lar day be­gins.

The bill goes into ef­fect in the 2022-23 aca­demic year.

Lodi Uni­fied high schools be­gin their reg­u­lar sched­ules at 7:35 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m. while mid­dle schools be­gin the day at 8:12 a.m. and end at 2:20 p.m.

As a coach and ath­letic di­rec­tor, Knack­st­edt said he didn’t know how the time change will ben­e­fit high school stu­dents in­volved in ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties such as sports and band.

“The whole ides is to get our stu­dents to sleep more,” he said. “If we put ev­ery­thing back more, th­ese kids are get­ting home an hour later, then they have home­work and they have to eat. They’re get­ting to bed later.”

Knack­st­edt au­thored a let­ter op­pos­ing SB 328 in Au­gust that was ap­proved by the board and sent to the gov­er­nor.

In the let­ter, he wrote that later start times would re­quire the district to ad­just trans­porta­tion for stu­dents from home to school and back, in ad­di­tion to in­creas­ing costs for more buses.

Af­ter-school pro­grams would be af­fected as well, he wrote, as fam­i­lies who can­not ad­just their work sched­ules will have to find ad­di­tional su­per­vi­sion for their chil­dren when classes end, and the district would be un­able to ac­com­mo­date ad­di­tional morn­ing and af­ter-school su­per­vi­sion for fam­i­lies who need it.

He added that ath­let­ics teams will have to push start times to later in the day, and stu­dents cur­rently miss­ing one class when trav­el­ing to events could po­ten­tially miss two pe­ri­ods of ed­u­ca­tion due to later start times.

Mike Holst, Tokay High School Ath­letic Di­rec­tor, said later start times could cause stu­dent ath­letes to miss more than one class, which will be a ma­jor con­cern to teach­ers.

Start times for games could be ad­justed to ac­com­mo­date the bill, but then stu­dents would be get­ting home later that they are now. How­ever, if game times aren’t ad­justed, stu­dents will def­i­nitely miss mul­ti­ple pe­ri­ods of in­struc­tion.

Holst, how­ever, is tak­ing a for­ward-look­ing ap­proach to the bill.

“If teen bod­ies are in­clined to wake up later, if that’s the case, I hope that the peo­ple mak­ing th­ese de­ci­sions have fig­ured this out,” he said. “Just be­cause it’s dif­fer­ent doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There may be a lit­tle freak­ing out to start with, but once we get it all fig­ured out it will be nor­mal. I’m sure we’ll get di­rec­tion from the board and up­per man­age­ment in the district.”

Robert Win­ter­hal­ter, ath­letic di­rec­tor at Lodi High School, shared the con­cerns voiced by both Knack­st­edt and Holst.

He said many of his stu­dent ath­letes at­tend manda­tory study hall af­ter school and be­fore prac­tice, which starts at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. for most teams.

“With mul­ti­ple teams prac­tic­ing and us­ing the same fa­cil­i­ties, some prac­tices might not end un­til 10 p.m.,” he said. “I find this un­ac­cept­able from an aca­demic stand­point, so I had a thought about morn­ing prac­tices. An in­door team could prac­tice from 6:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. be­fore school. This de­feats the pur­pose of a later start time, but I find it a bet­ter al­ter­na­tive than a prac­tice that runs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Win­ter­hal­ter said he’d like to move start times for ath­let­ics events and prac­tices back to ac­com­mo­date the new law, but noted that teams who com­pete out­doors run into the is­sue of not hav­ing enough day­light to fin­ish a match.

“I think the law is wellinten­tioned, but it will prob­a­bly have an over­all neg­a­tive ef­fect on stu­dent ath­letes,” he said. “I know ath­let­ics are a priv­i­lege and those stu­dents who choose to com­plete in a sport, do so vol­un­tar­ily, but will add yet another ob­sta­cle to stu­dents' al­ready busy sched­ules.”

Sev­eral school dis­tricts, as well as the Cal­i­for­nia Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion, op­posed the bill, the lat­ter of which said SB 328 was un­nec­es­sary be­cause the leg­is­la­tion’s tar­geted com­mu­ni­ties al­ready have the op­tion to start school at later times.

The CTA echoed Knack­st­edt’s con­cerns that the bill would neg­a­tively im­pact be­fore- and af­ter- school pro­grams and sports, union con­tracts and bus sched­ules.

The Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion and the Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics sup­ported the bill, cit­ing 2014 re­search that showed de­layed start times led to im­proved grades, in­creased at­ten­dance and en­ergy among teenagers dur­ing the school day.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Sleep Medicine rec­om­mends that teenagers get eight to 10 hours of sleep per night, ac­cord­ing to 2016 re­search. A lack of sleep, the academy said, is linked to ac­ci­dent risk, in­juries, obe­sity, di­a­betes, de­pres­sion and sui­ci­dal at­tempts or thoughts.

Por­tantino first in­tro­duced the bill last year, but for­mer Gov. Jerry Brown is­sued a veto, stat­ing that start times should re­main a de­ci­sion made by dis­tricts and their com­mu­ni­ties.

School dis­tricts must com­ply with the bill by July 1, 2022, or by the date of which a district’s col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment that is op­er­a­tive on Jan. 1, 2020, ex­pires, which­ever is later.

Knack­st­edt said the board will most likely ask staff at a fu­ture meet­ing to cre­ate a re­port on how the district will pro­ceed with the pas­sage of the law.

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