Denair Unified School District Superintendent Terry Metzger recommended to administrators Thursday night that school start 30 minutes later starting in August to comply with a new state law.
Board members took no action Thursday, but are expected to make a final decision at their April meeting.
Currently, school starts at 8 a.m. on all four Denair campuses. A law passed by the California Legislature and signed by the governor in 2019 states that districts cannot begin 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 to them of a later start time.
Metzger told administrators that having different start times across its campuses was impractical for a small district like Denair, primarily because of the impact it would have on transportation. Denair has two bus routes. Students of all levels ride together. If any campus started school before 8:30 a.m., high school students would have to arrive early; which goes against the spirit of the new law.
Along with revising its schedule, the district is expanding its before- and after-school academic options. Metzger emphasized that the Extended Learning Opportunities program does not replace currently available child care services. Rather, she explained, it is an effort to alleviate persistent academic problems for students associated with the two-year COVID-19 pandemic. The district expects to receive approximately $845,000 annually in federal funding for the program.
Possible ELOP services could include tutoring, homework help, reading practice, opportunities for middle and high school students to talk one-on-one with teachers or work on group projects at the library.
“This is the perfect opportunity to rethink what we do,” Metzger said. “It allows us to comply with the law at 8:30 a.m. and offer before and after school classes to help working parents. We are strategic in the types of programs in which we will be able to engage students.
Parents will need to register their children for ELOP. Metzger said more information will be sent home next week explaining the program and asking parents if they’re likely to be interested. She expects up to 500 students to participate. The federal money will cover the full cost of the program, including staffing, she said.
“It’s not a daycare center,” Metzger said. “It is meant to be educational.