City school board debates later start times

SAN DIEGO – A debate is brewing that could impact thousands of San Diego students and their families.

On Tuesday the San Diego Unified School Board took up the issue of later school start times.

“High school and middle school students really need to start later. Their biological clocks are different. They’re suffering from sleep deprivation,” said John Lee Evans, Board Trustee.

The change would affect approximately 30,000 students in 20 schools around San Diego.

Evans, who is leading the effort, said by sliding back times, students could catch up on sleep. He said studies have shown clear benefits, including physical and emotional health, fewer absences and tardiness, safety and overall achievement for students.

“Some people say the kids will just stay up later and get less sleep, but studies actually show they do get more sleep with the later start time,” said Evans.

Board members are reviewing two pilot programs. In one of the programs, schools with minimum days once a week shift to start the day later.

Another program at Mira Mesa High School has students logging in to a first-period online class.

“So that would be their schedule for the first period, but they would actually be able to do that course any time of day and therefore be able to get more sleep,” said Evans.

Evans said eventually the hope is to implement a later start time across the district, but currently, the move isn’t financially feasible.

“We don’t have the money to pay for extra bussing obviously at this point. It would have to be a situation where we could change and alternate a few different routes,” said Evans.

He said it’s definitely a change worth exploring.

“Change is always difficult, but this is really about the health, safety and well-being of the children,” said Evans.

Benefits of the change will depend on the start time of each school, which varies across the district.

Currently, Kearny Mesa High School is the only school in the district with a late start time.

The board voted to table the discussion at a future board meeting.