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Legislator Eyes Later School Starting Time

Parents of bleary-eyed schoolchildren may get some relief from their cranky children if a bill proposed last week in the state Legislature is passed.

Assemblyman Harvey Epstein, D-New York City, has proposed eliminating any school starting time earlier than 8:30 a.m. as part of A.8202. The legislation would amend the state Education Law to set 8:30 a.m. as the earliest time a school could start its day with schools choosing to start earlier losing state school aid.

“Analysis by the New York State School Boards Association found that two-thirds of high schools start the school day before 8 a.m.,” Epstein wrote in his legislative justification. “According to the Centers for Disease Control, early school start times can pose health risks to adolescents, including being overweight, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and using drugs. Studies have also shown that the academic performance of sleep-deprived students suffers.”

Locally, the Gowanda Central School Board of Education has been discussing a later start time for students. The district starts middle and high school classes at 7:15 a.m., more than an hour earlier than the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommended start time for adolescents. The district’s elementary students start at 8:15 a.m. The district decided not to chance anything this year, but will discuss the issue at future board meetings.

In 2019, California became the first state to mandate a start time of at least 8:30 a.m. for middle and high schools. Schools had until July 1, 2021, to implement the new standard start time. Middle schools are also no longer allowed to start before 8 a.m.

According to an NBC News report on the California law from 2019, data compiled by the National Center for Education Statistics showed the average start time for public high schools in the United States was 7:59 a.m. and middle schools 8:04 a.m., according to the most recent survey taken in 2012.

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that middle and high schools start no earlier than eight-thirty a.m. to ensure that students aged 13 to 18 are receiving the eight to 10 hours of sleep recommended by doctors,” Epstein wrote. “California enacted legislation in 2019 to mandate high school start times no earlier than 8:30; several states are currently studying the effects of beginning school later. This legislation would add New York to the list of states taking action to prevent adolescent health issues caused by lack of sleep.”

Also introduced recently in the Assembly is A.8214 by Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, D-Bronx, which would create a maximum tempreature in school buildings and facilities. Joyner proposes school districts be required to take action if the temperature in classrooms and school kitchens exceeds 82 degrees, with rooms not to be occupired if the temperature in a room is higher than 88 degrees.

“While the state imposes a minimum classroom temperature, there are currently no statutory limits on maximum temperatures in school buildings and indoor facilities throughout New York state to ensure that excessive temperatures do not create health and safety risks to students, faculty members and school employees,” Joyner wrote in her legislative justification.

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