School Start: Time for Change?

By Sania Choudhary


A legislation moving the start times of public and charter schools, exempting rural districts, was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019. Under this law, public middle schools will start at 8 a.m. or later and high schools will start at 8:30 a.m. or later. This law is set to go into effect on either July 1, 2022, or when the school’s bargaining agreement with its employees expires, whichever is earlier.

While this legislation does not apply to Pinewood since it is a private school, Pinewood faculty and administration has been thinking about the effects of moving the start time of school by 30 minutes. 

“We are thinking about, or certainly looking into [changing the school start time] more seriously now,” Dean of Studies Laurie Wilson said.

The Wellness Committee, a Pinewood committee looking at, among other things, school start times, has been considering moving Pinewood’s start time on and off for at least two years. With the new legislation, the investigation of the issue has intensified. 

Faculty members have varied opinions about this legislation and moving Pinewood’s start time. Some teachers have noted that students appear tired in their classes and could benefit from more sleep.

“In any given class, at least one student is next to complete slumber, and some days it is a majority of the students,” math teacher Christine Walters said. 

English teacher Ellie Pojarska said that students in her first-period classes have difficulty staying awake. 

“And I’m not just referring to the students who stay up late on social media or playing video games,” Pojarska, who has her Writing 10 students write a essay on student sleep deprivation each year, said. “Even the most disciplined of students have a hard time staying awakebefore 9 a.m.”

Pojarska believes faculty would also benefit from the shift. 

“It would benefit [the adults] indirectly by ensuring that the students in their classrooms are fully awake and engaged,” Pojarska said. 

While the idea of starting school later is being seriously considered, faculty and administration also have some misgivings about the delay.

“My concern is after school extracurriculars and sports,” history teacher Sam Jezak said.

With an earlier start time, sports practices and other extracurriculars may either have to be pushed to later or happen in the morning, both of which would defeat the purpose of starting school later.

“If, as studies show, kids do better with a later start, I think that it is a great idea. I think though, you have to be really careful about how you orchestrate it, how you do it, and when it is,” Wilson said.

The Wellness Committee plans to survey the upper campus families, look at traffic patterns at different times in the morning, consult more research, and talk with other schools, as they move forward with their investigation. 

“In a perfect world, if everybody actually gets more sleep, it would be great. But I don’t know if we’re in the perfect world,” Wilson said.

“We obviously are in favor of students getting more sleep, but we have to be confident that any move that we make works directly toward that goal,” Principal Gabriel Lemmon said.

Graphics on this page come from a poll of 210 Pinewood students and faculty.