California Institutes Mandatory High School Start Times of 8:30 or Later

Starting in 2022, California will become the first state in the U.S. to mandate later start times for public middle schools and high schools. By the start of the 2022-2023 year, middle schools will be required to start classes at 8 AM or later while high schools will be required to start at 8:30AM or later.

Early start times has always been a hot topic in swimming, as the sport has a uniquely-sadist view on early mornings (matched perhaps only by distance runners). In some parts of the country, pre-school practices require athletes to wake as early as 4AM. The problem is that, around the time that teenagers are starting middle school, they experience what’s called “sleep phase delay,” which changes their natural circadian rhythms. This makes it very difficult for teenagers to fall asleep before 11PM, and with the National Center on Sleep Disorders recommending 8-and-a-half to 10 hours of sleep per night for teenagers, this makes an early start time nearly impossible.

Multiple studies have shown that reduced sleep and early start times for schools reduces performance and physical health.

For its part, California is solving the issue for the majority of the student population, which now can at least sleep until 7:00 AM or 7:30 AM.

In some cases, for morning practices, this could be a blessing. A previous 5AM start time for a school that started at 7:00 AM, for example, could now become a 6AM start time for a school that started at 8:30 AM. That’s still not ideal, but it is a significant improvement.

On the flip-side, the later start time doesn’t produce more pools – which is a partial driver on the need for morning practices. Later start times could lead to a shift in the battle over morning practices, with programs that had previously lost on the debate over a 5AM or 5:30 AM start time now being able to make a better case for a 6AM or 6:30AM start time.

As an example of how this shift might change swimming programs, Tesoro High School, which was the highest-finishing public school at the 2019 CIF-Southern Section Division I girls’ swimming and diving championships, currently has a “Period 0” that starts at 6:40 AM, and a “Period 1” that starts at 7:52 AM. Period 0 is often a limited class or a co-curricular class like debate that is graded and where attendance is taken, but where enrollment is usually optional. For a student in a “Period 0,” a morning practice would (appear to be) essentially impossible, though a 5:45 AM practice seems within the realm of “make it work” plausibility.

While the new start time exempts “zero periods,” the mandatory later starting time would push zero periods to around 7:30 AM instead, and period 1 for those students without a zero period class to 8:30 AM. For those students without a zero period, a 90 minute 6:30 AM practice (or 2 hour 6:00 AM practice) will seem totally feasible.

There’s no good database of swim practice start times, and no readily-available information, so any shift in approach will be largely anecdotal – but it does give pause for thought as parents, coaches, and administrators weigh their new reality and how to adapt.

Below, listen to an episode of radio show The Takeaway on the subject of the new mandatory later start times. While not swimming specific, it touches on the challenges and opportunities of the new changes.


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more pseudo science to support/drive a key viewer group’s prime-time and TV ratings. Alternatively, goto bed earlier maybe? I’m sure they will love rolling all the buses into that wonderful prime rush-hour traffic. Oh yeah, and they are way behind in public transportation options too. Planned for success – Not!


Yea just go to bed early! It will be easy to crunch all the homework, extracurriculars, studying, eating, socializing into a few hours after school!


I see your point but, there’s 24 hours in a day now, and there will be 24 hours in a day when they shift the school schedule. The fact that the school day is shifting doesn’t decrease the number of hours available to you.

cynthia curran

The true is everyone is different at a young age. I could go with less sleep at age 16 then today. I don’t mind later high school starts. I think the earliest when I was in high school was 8:00. My thing about Newsom is he is a busy body that tells schools and other organizations what to do. He is no libertarian which would leave the decisions to the local school districts.


Wow didn’t get the likes you expected huh?


It only works if, as in this case, it is statewide. If it is on a school-by-school basis, swimmers from the schools with later start times are hurt because practices are most likely based on the last bell of the earlier schools (and these kids could miss practice). There is no real reason to have kids start so early, so a state mandate is the direction we need to be going.


Seems a later start time also means a later end time… Afternoon practices at many pools are already jammed with practices starting with younger kids right after school and going until after 8pm for the older groups. The pools are packed every hour so can’t cram in more kids earlier in the afternoon.

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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