At Wednesday’s board meeting, the Carmel Unified School District School Board discussed the impact that enacting later school start times could have on school staff and high school athletics.
Senate Bill 328 prohibits middle schools from starting before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m. While other districts on the Monterey Peninsula implemented the change for this school year, Carmel Unified was exempted due to its “rural” classification.
Knight promised the community and the district council that he would make a recommendation to pass or reject the schedule change for the 2023-24 school year by December.
Previously, Knight told the Herald that the district’s decision would fall into one of four categories: deciding not to enact the change; swap primary and middle school start times; set back all schools for a specified period; or cancel certain bus lines.
Carmel High School principal Jonathon Lyons and athletic director Golden Anderson presented at Wednesday’s meeting how later school start and end times could impact extracurricular activities and programs district athletes.
Currently, Carmel High School has 40 active clubs and 25 athletic programs. According to Lyons’ presentation, last year more than 57% of Carmel High School’s student population participated in extracurricular sports activities.
“Fall is an interesting season because most of it is outdoors,” Lyons explained. “So this is probably the highest utilization rate in our field at this point in the fall. … In terms of actual practical experience, one of the big challenges we have is that we don’t have only one area. One field on campus, we have a swimming pool and we have a gymnasium.
According to Lyons and Anderson, fall sports are currently played outdoors in two-hour increments between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. In winter, practice hours are limited to 3 p.m. 30 and 5 p.m. because the sun sets much earlier.
Anderson explained that limited afternoon sunlight becomes more of a problem in September and October, and whichever sport has the later training slot, he has to sacrifice extra training time at the the course of the season.
“It goes without saying that later practice windows require lights,” Lyons explained. “We are losing training time. Compared to other schools, at the moment we are reducing the practice of field hockey. Hollister is able to run two hours of training, we are able to run one hour. It will show on the pitch, this lack of training time.
District Superintendent Ted Knight pointed out that regardless of the length of the school day, sports team practice times are already affected by limited afternoon and evening sunlight.
“I think the problem is that we are already feeling most of these impacts. So right now, if field hockey only gets one hour (of practice), even if we go back 15 minutes, now they’ll only get 45 (minutes),” Knight said. “Whether it’s 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, the more you move it, I think the more impact it will have.”
The possibility of adding stadium lights to district facilities has been a hot topic in the community – and some community members are getting excited.
The school district proposed adding four new light poles to the high school stadium as part of a facilities master plan three years ago, but became a priority for the district after Governor Gavin Newsom passed Senate Bill 328 – implementing later school start times – in 2019.
But community feedback quickly revealed that neighbors had several concerns, including light and noise pollution, event parking, declining property values and environmental damage.
In response to these concerns, the district reviewed and released an updated environmental impact report in late August, which presented additional project proposals and expanded the former high school stadium lighting project. Carmel at the stadium improvement project.
After a 45-day public comment period, the district will finalize the report and the final decision on the project will be presented at a special council meeting scheduled for November 29.
“It’s interesting that when we’re advocating for athletics at the level that we do — which is really high for a small high school — the case of having the facility that’s able to do that job and not , is sort of…it’s not exactly what taxpayers’ money should be doing,” commented board member Karl Pallastrini. “Having this thing idle anytime it could be used and keeping the kids on campus.”
“It seems that whether we implement late entry or not, we are still affected by schools that have implemented late entry,” said council clerk Tess Arthur.
But later school start times wouldn’t just impact sports teams and practice times.
Craig Chavez, district human resources manager, briefed the board on the impact of late school start times on transportation, before and after school care and support staff.
Chavez pointed out that later start-to-school times could alter the number of bus drivers needed based on hours of extracurricular activities and childcare — a challenge when a nationwide shortage of bus drivers left 1 125 vacancies for bus drivers in California as of August 30.
Chavez also explained that many support staff have more than one job and may have to leave their positions with the district if late school start times disrupt their work schedule.
Knight said the district partnered with Hanover Research to host a survey of families and staff to share their feedback on later start times.
He explained to the council that the investigations will not include information presented at Wednesday’s meeting due to community response in the past.
“When we first did this, there were a lot of comments that we were guiding people to the answer, so that’s why we went out and asked Hannover to help us with this. So there’s no not a lot of that kind of information in there,” he explained. “It’s not about whether people want it or not. It’s ‘Are you willing to compromise? ‘ ”
Knight said the district hopes the survey will be sent out early next week.