A state law passed three years ago that takes effect with the 2022-23 school year will require the Denair Unified School District to change when class starts and ends each day. The ramifications are likely to affect every student and every family in the district, Superintendent Terry Metzger told trustees at their monthly board meeting Thursday night.
Currently, school begins at 8 a.m. for all of Denair’s 1,200 kindergarten through 12th-grade students. The law passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019 says districts cannot start before 8 a.m. for middle school students or 8:30 a.m. for high school students. It was based on research regarding sleep deprivation in adolescents and the benefits of a later start time.
Metzger said all school districts are California are “grappling with this change.” For small districts like Denair, the ripple effect of starting and ending high school 30 minutes later each day will touch everyone.
Transportation is a key consideration, Metzger said. Most parents and/or caregivers of Denair students work outside the home and many of their children rely on them for transportation to and from school. That could be complicated with a school schedule change.
The district also has two bus routes that serve about 300 K-12 students. Metzger said the district cannot afford to have early buses for elementary students and later ones for middle and high school students.
In addition, Metzger said that the high school and middle school currently operate on the same schedule, which allows them to share staff.
The current schedule also allows older siblings to accompany younger children to school, something that could be problematic if Denair Elementary Charter Academy retains an 8 a.m. start time while the high school and middle school begin a half-hour later.
Metzger has had multiple discussions with staff and parents about the upcoming change, including a Zoom meeting Jan. 19 and face-to-face meetings in the following weeks. She also surveyed parents and 58 responded, many sharing ideas and expressing concerns about the schedule change.
Metzger said the advantage of moving the start times for all three campuses back to 8:30 a.m. are:
- Families could stay on the same schedule
- It allows collaboration and shared staff at DHS and DMS
- The district could continue to provide transportation for all students who need it
Metzger said the district also is exploring free before- and after-school child care options for parents.
No decision was made Thursday night. The scheduling issue is likely to be a discussion item at the board’s March meeting, with trustees expected to approve a final plan in April.
“This is going to impact families,” Metzger said. “There will be less time for homework. Sports are going to go later. It’s going to make dinner time and bedtime more challenging. While that may not be our responsibility, that’s a human factor that we are going to have to think about.”
Earlier in the meeting, trustees voted 5-0 to approve the 2022-23 school calendar. School will begin on Wed., Aug. 10. There will be no class Nov. 21-25 during Thanksgiving Week. Winter break is Dec. 19 through Jan. 2, with classes resuming Tues., Jan. 3. Spring break is April 7-14. And high school graduation will be Fri., May 26.
In other action Thursday night, trustees:
- Congratulated Metzger for being chosen as the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 7 Superintendent of the Year. The region is comprised of Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Tuolumne, Calaveras and Amador counties. Metzger now will represent Region 7 in the statewide competition.
- Voted unanimously approve an updated COVID prevention and safety plan. Removed from the plan were references to distance learning and hybrid learning, which no longer are applicable (the handful of students still learning from home today are on independent study). Also modified were rules regarding contact tracing and testing, which no longer will be required for asymptomatic students. There was no relaxation of mandatory mask use for now, though Metzger expects updated guidance from state officials as early as next week.
- Voted 5-0 in favor of a comprehensive safety plan for the district.
- Heard a midyear update on the Local Control and Accountability Plans for the high school and middle school as well as the district’s two charter schools (DECA and Denair Charter Academy).