Gov. Approves Legislation to Study Options and Benefits of Later Start Times in Middle and High School

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Governor Chris Christie approved legislation, S-2484/A-3845 (Codey, Turner/Jasey, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, McKeon), August 10 which would require the Department of Education (NJDOE) to conduct a study on options and benefits of instituting later school start time in middle school and high school.

Specifically, the new law directs the Department of Education to:

  1. consider the recent recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics on the establishment of later school start times;
  2. include an assessment of the health, academic, and safety benefits associated with establishing later start times in middle schools and high schools;
  3. evaluate any potential negative impacts on school districts and families that may be associated with a later start time and consider strategies for addressing potential problems; and
  4. review all available literature and data on the experiences of school districts in the nation that have instituted later start times.

The bill’s impetus was an American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that adolescents start the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. to “align school schedules to the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents, whose sleep-wake cycles begin to shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty.”  According to the academy, just 15 percent of high schools start after 8:30 a.m. and most adolescents don’t get the recommended 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep each night.

Under the new law, the NJDOE must submit a report to the Governor and Legislature outlining its findings.  The report must include a recommendation on the advisability of establishing a pilot program to test later school start times in select middle schools and high schools throughout the State that are interested in participating in the program.  The Senate unanimously passed the legislation back in 2014, the Senate approved the measure on June 11.

The new law is effective  immediately.