SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — Middle and high school students across California will be able to sleep in a little more under a new California law that will affect the schedules of most public and charter schools ahead for the 2022-23 academic year.  

The legislation takes effect July 1 and addresses concerns that classes start too early, depriving students of receiving adequate sleep. Current law requires the governing board of each school district to fix the length of the school day, according to California legislative information.

Effective July 1, middle schools – including those operated as charter schools –  cannot start before 8 a.m. Similarly, most high school campuses can start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. 

Today, the average start time for California high school clocks in at 8:04 a.m., according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. Similarly, bells ring at 8:11 a.m. for an average middle school in California. The new rules challenge the schedules of many public schools in Northern California. Oak Ridge High in El Dorado Hills, for example, started classes at 7:25 a.m. before amending its schedules nearly two years ago. 

Senate Bill 328 aligns with recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and urges middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to help ensure that students arrive awake and ready to learn.

Research suggests that adolescents need roughly 9 hours of sleep to promote their health and development. However, the average teenager only sleeps 7 hours every night, leading to mood, behavior and academic performance problems. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. While the AMA cites other biological factors like puberty and academic demands for impeding sufficient sleep, the agency says the evidence “strongly implicates earlier school start times as a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption, in this population.” 

Studies from the National Institute of Health capture the consequences of sleep deprivation: increased accidents from drowsiness, emotional and behavioral problems, increased risk for developing substance abuse, and impaired cognitive function that negatively affects performance in everything from academics to athletics.

While the scientific community insists changing start times benefits adolescent students, others suggest changes would complicate the lives of families, including the impact of bus schedules, alterations of school activities, homework routines, and concerns over cost. 

While the law exempts rural districts and private schools, the new rules will affect all other students, families and school staff during the 2022-23 academic year.