New California Law Requires Later Start Times for Middle Schools and High Schools
On October 13, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 328 (Portantino) which pushes back start times for middle schools and high schools, including those operated by charter schools. The new start times will go into effect on July 1, 2022 or on the date a school district’s or charter school’s applicable collective bargaining agreements expire, whichever is later.
SB 328 revises Education Code 46148 to require that:
- Middle schools can start no earlier than 8:00 a.m.
- High schools can start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
According to the author, the purpose of the SB 328 is to align the school start time with the developmental needs and biological sleep cycles of adolescents. According to the April 24, 2019 Senate Committee on Education report, later school starts times have been shown to improve grades, reduce depression symptoms, reduce caffeine use, reduce substance abuse, reduce tardiness, improve attendance rates, improve graduation rates, and greatly reduce car crashes caused by teen drivers.
The new law does not alter the minimum requirement for instructional minutes. Additionally, the April 24, 2019 Senate Committee on Education report on SB 328 acknowledged that a later start time would result in a later end time, which might negatively affect extracurricular activities especially during the winter months for schools that lack outdoor lighting on their sports fields.
The new law will still allow schools to offer classes or activities to a limited number of pupils before the start of the school day as long as these classes or activities do not generate average daily attendance (ADA) for the purpose of determining the a district’s apportionment of state funding. This means that schools may still offer “zero periods” prior to the official start times listed above.
The new law does not apply to rural school districts. However, SB 328 does not define “rural.” This problem in the law was noted in the April 24, 2019 Senate Committee on Education report on SB 328, which notes that, “If the bill moves forward, the author may wish to clarify the meaning of rural school districts for purposes of the exemption.” The August 14, 2019 Assembly Committee on Appropriations report stated that “[u]sing the federal definition of ‘rural,’ 20% of California schools would be exempt.” This same report did not specify which definition of rural it applied in its calculation. The Washington Post has noted that the U.S. government has at least 15 different definitions of the word “rural.” (The Federal Definition of ‘Rural’ – Times 15 at https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/the-federal-definition-of-rural--times-15/2013/06/08/a39e46a8-cd4a-11e2-ac03-178510c9cc0a_story.html)
We expect clarification on which districts are deemed to be “rural” and therefore do not need to adjust their start times in either clean up legislation or a California Department of Education regulation substantially in advance of the July 1, 2022 implementation date so that districts that may meet the definition of “rural” will be able to plan accordingly.
To the extent that there are changes in the start and end times of the work day for certificated or classified employees, districts should expect to receive a demand to bargain over implementation of the law as it will impact a mandatory subject of bargaining (i.e. hours).
Our team of attorneys is available to answer any questions regarding implementation or application of this new law.