Unclear what later start times will mean for Truckee schools
It is still unclear what a new bill that delays school start times in California schools will mean for the Truckee Tahoe School District.
Signed Oct. 13 by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the law prohibits middle schools from starting before 8 a.m and high schools from starting before 8:30 a.m. Rural school districts, however, are exempt.
“We’re waiting on clarification on what a rural school district is,” said Kelli Twomey, coordinator of parent and community relations for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. “The fact that we span over 723 square miles would make you think that we are a rural district.”
The first bell rings at 7:30 a.m. at both district high schools. The school board began looking at moving start times back and having all schools start at the same time after a transportation feasibility study was completed last year. The district currently has 4,233 students enrolled in 12 schools with 80% taking the bus to or from school. Getting students to school on time requires 35 buses and 25 different routes.
“We could not have all schools start at the same time and take care of all our kids with the number of buses and the number of routes we have,” said Twomey. The district would need to obtain more buses, work out more routes and hire more staff, which would cost the district around $4 million, she said.
The school board appointed a committee to survey parents, students and staff about later start times this past spring. They received over 2,500 responses.
“There were many that were supporting a change, but the responses were extremely divided,” said Twomey. “The committee felt that the magnitude of the negative impacts that were identified in the survey were far too significant.”
On May 1 the board voted to maintain the same bell schedule. As for the new bill Twomey said there’s not enough information to move forward with anything right now.
“We already did this extensive evaluation, so we’re staying on that course for right now,” she said.
She said other measures have been taken to ensure the health and wellbeing of the district’s students.
“Everybody has a concern about the wellbeing of their kids,” said Twomey. “The board has invested a lot of money on social and emotional support programs.”
These investments made school nurses, counselors and psychologists available at every school throughout the district. Additionally the board has contracts with Placer and Nevada county’s Health and Human Services departments to provide the Truckee North Tahoe Youth Health Initiative. At the Truckee and North Tahoe high schools students also have access to a wellness center.
“With the sleep issue there’s more of a concern for middle and high school students and their overall wellbeing,” said Twomey.
Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at 530-550-2652 or email@example.com.