School board opens discussion about starting school day one hour later

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) — A group of parents, students and psychologists wants the San Diego Unified School District to consider starting the school day later.

The group attended Tuesday night’s meeting of the board trustees to present their views about pushing the start of the classes for high school and middle school students to a later time, to give students more time to sleep.

According to psychologist and neuroscientist Dr. Diyva Kakaiya, 33 percent of California students say they fall asleep during school hours. Kakaiya said melatonin, the brain chemical that induces sleep, does not kick in until 11 a.m. or later for adolescents.

She believes many teens who report for school at 7:15 a.m. or 7:30 a.m. are deprived of the sleep they need for healthy intellectual and psychological development.  

"When the teens get enough sleep, you have better academic performance, you have better athletic performance, you have better emotional performance- and you have happier teens. We have found that teens who have six hours or less of sleep a night-about 65 percent of those teens are predisposed to severe depression," Kakaiya said.

School board trustee and child psychologist Dr. John Lee Evans supports the idea of a later start to the school day, although he thinks the decision to revise hours should be left to the school communities, instead of imposed as a district-wide mandate.

He said in some instances, switching to a later hour may result in more costs. Evans said the changes could not be made for every school right away because of financial considerations.

"Most of the school schedules revolve around the bus schedules," Evans said. "We have to have the bus drivers make two or three runs, so we have early, middle and late start schools. So, at this point, if a school wants to do it, we have to see if there’s a revenue-neutral way to do it," he said.

Currently, Kearny High School is the only school in the district with a later start time. Classes at Kearny High begin at 8:45 a.m.

Categories: Local San Diego News