Investigation into school start time, scheduling continues

By: TAYLOR DESMOND

During bimonthly topic team meetings over the past year, teachers and faculty of Carmel High School have gathered to discuss various ideas, one of which is the possibility of having a later school start time and the incorporation of more block days into the bell schedule.

“I was passionate about wanting us to at least take a look at options,” health teacher Leigh Cambra says. “I know the research shows it’s better for teenagers, and I was hoping a group of people could take a creative look at possible solutions.”

The American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education supports Cambra’s argument of starting school later in the day. A group of professors at the Auburn University Harrison School of Pharmacy conducted a cross-sectional study with 364 student pharmacists, concluding that an adequate night’s sleep led to higher examination grades and academic performance.

Years ago, former CUSD superintendent and psychologist Marvin Biasotti presented a 12-page report regarding the correlation between student health and sleep patterns and questioned changing the school schedule.

“[The issue] has been handed off to an entity of administrators, teachers and students that could actually propose changes,” says former topic team member Marc Stafford. “Only the school board could make the changes.”

In late spring of 2017, state-mandated testing allowed the manipulation of block day schedules to occur. Within the early stages of collecting data and after testing, Stafford’s topic team pushed out a student opinion survey on the school website, asking what schedule the students preferred.

“There would be a lot less homework if there were [four block days] per week,” junior Zeke Spooner says. “There would be less assignments and more time in class with the block periods to focus on a certain topic.”

While this view is popular among students, there is a problem with the unique circumstances of the testing week last spring.

“They didn’t have much homework because during junior testing there isn’t given much…. Otherwise the poor juniors would be screwed,” AP Statistics teacher Dawn Hatch says. “It definitely gave the kids a false sense of what that would be like.”

Not only is the possibility of schedule changes being addressed in the district, but advocates for pushing back school starting time include California Sen. Anthony Portantino. He introduced a bill late last year that would have required all California middle and high schools to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., but the bill was laid to rest for the year on Sept. 15 after receiving only 26 of the 41 votes needed to pass.

“Of course, if it passes [in the future], we will comply to the full extent of the law,” comments assistant principal Debbi Puente. “In the meantime, we will be working on our next steps.”

The logistics of changing the school schedule brings up conflicts in other areas, relating to bus schedules, parents’ work hours, and extracurricular activities. Within the district, extensive coordination between all of the schools would have to occur.

“The biggest problem [is] transportation and how [we] would have to rework the whole transportation system here since we are a unified school district and we share busses,” Cambra says.

For the time being, although the Moodle poll gave many students the impression that schedule adjustments would be made soon, changing the school schedule is still in data-collection mode.