California Becomes First State to Move Back School Start Times


Go ahead and hit that snooze button one more time.

High school and middle school classes in California will start later than ever when the school year begins this fall. That means that students (and the parents who schlep them to school) can look forward to a little extra sleep.

In 2019, California legislators passed a first-of-its-kind law requiring that public high schools begin classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m., and that middle schools start no earlier than 8 a.m. The law officially went into effect on July 1.

Teenagers not only need as much as 10 hours of sleep each day, but shifts in their biological rhythms also make them become sleepy later. “Asking a teenager to be awake and trying to absorb information at 8:30 in the morning in some ways is like asking an adult to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning,” Matthew Walker, a University of California, Berkeley, neuroscience professor, told NPR.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the average public high school start time was 8 a.m. nationwide and 8:04 a.m. in California. In some pockets of the Golden State, the switch to virtual learning resulted in classes beginning later, but now those delayed start times are becoming mandatory and widespread. (There are some exceptions: The new law doesn’t apply to rural communities or optional class periods called “zero periods,” which start before the regular school sessions.)

Experts say that chronic sleep deprivation among teenagers has been linked to worse academic performance and mental and physical health problems as well as substance abuse and drowsy driving. Because of the litany of public health risks, the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for school to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m., as even 60 extra minutes of sleep per night can have major benefits in staving off long-term health issues.

“The effects of that one hour is something they will be feeling as 40-year-old adults,” Dr. Sumit Bhargava, a clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Stanford University, told The New York Times. “When you give them the gift of increased sleep time, it is the biggest bang for the buck that you can think about.”

Lisa L. Lewis, who advocated for California’s law and recently published a book called “The Sleep-Deprived Teen,” told me that places that have already pushed back school start times have seen positive results.

When Seattle’s public school district shifted its start time in 2016, students got about half an hour more sleep per night. And in a Denver-area suburb, high schoolers slept about 45 minutes longer on average.

Other states, including New York and New Jersey, are now considering similar legislation.

“This is a public health issue,” Lewis said. “As of now, California is the only one, but we are often a bellwether for other states.”

Today’s tip comes from Thomas Leary, who recommends a getaway in Orange County:

“This year my Ohio family renewed their yearly summer tradition of traveling to Seal Beach for a week to relax and bask in the sun with their California brethren. Seal Beach is not as glamorous as Laguna Beach or Newport Beach. It is a sleepy little town with many Irish pubs and restaurants. Our family was recently really able to unwind and enjoy being together in person for the first time in three years. I hesitate recommending Seal Beach because I don’t want it to be discovered! It’s glorious.”

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to [email protected]. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

Charlie Kelly and Jean Paul Broc Gomez were set up on a blind date in June 2015. They had dinner at Bestia in downtown Los Angeles.

“I was just blown away by how easy it was to talk to him,” Kelly told The New York Times. “It was as though I’d known him for a very long time. There was no pretense to the conversation. It just felt really natural and familiar.”

The two sat at the bar until it closed before returning to Broc’s apartment. Kelly wound up staying for a week.

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