Bill Calling for Look at Later Start to School Day Advances to State Assembly

John Mooney, Founding Editor | December 19, 2014 | Education
Various studies cite negative impact of early classes, but some worry about impact on after-school activities

Credit: NJTV
State Sen. and former Gov. Richard J. Codey (D-Essex and Morris)
A later start to the school day – or, more exactly, a proposal to study the idea – took a step toward passage yesterday, with the state Senate approving a bill that aims to push back the clock for public-school students.

The bill, which was passed 37-0 by the Senate and now heads to the Assembly, calls for studying the possibility of changing start times for schools.

The proposal has stirred up strong and varied opinions, given that every family is affected one way or another by the vagaries of school start times.

Various academic studies – including one by the American Academy of Pediatricians — have criticized middle-school and high-school schedules that begin as early as 7 a.m., which some say leaves students half-asleep for their classes.

“By doing a study, we can bring in everybody within the education community to assert their viewpoints,” said state Sen. Richard Codey (D-Essex), chief sponsor of the bill. “It is my hope that we will bring about a change in thinking about how we educate our kids and whether we are doing right by them by sending them to high school and middle school at 7:15 in the morning.”

The AAP report recommended an 8:30 a.m. start time, and about 1,000 schools nationwide have adopted schedules that begin later in the morning.

But others have expressed concerns about the impact of later start times on the other end of the school day, particularly the impact on extracurricular programs.

Codey, after the vote yesterday, shot back at the critics, saying that is more about the impact on adult schedules.

“Listen, some people will look at it in terms of what is best for me as a parent or a teacher,” Codey said. “They have to realize it is not about them, it’s about the students.”

“Studies show that when you start that early, the first two periods are a disaster,” he said.

The bill specifically calls for a study of the health and education benefits of different school schedules, and also calls for consideration of pilot programs to experiment with different start times.