School start time proposal hits roadblock with legislative legal division
The future of a proposed regulation on high school start times is unclear as the State Board of Education has yet to hear back on a draft of the proposal it sent to legislative attorneys about three months ago.
Under the latest version of the regulation, public high schools that begin prior to 8 a.m., including charter schools, would be required to provide alternative options to families and students. If passed, the regulation would be implemented by the 2025-26 school year.
Proponents of the regulation have argued that later start times could support better sleep among teens, which they say could lead to improvements in their physical and mental well-being as well as their academic performance. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends an 8:30 a.m. start time for teenagers.
High school start times vary across the state and even within school districts. At the state’s largest school district, Clark County, high schools generally start classes at 7 a.m. In Washoe County, high school start times range from 7:40 a.m. to 8 a.m.
In October, the board voted to send its proposed regulation to the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s legal division for review. During a Wednesday meeting, board President Felicia Ortiz said there’s been no response from the bureau.
“That typically means that they don't agree with our authority, or have some issue with the language,” she said.
Ortiz said during a Thursday interview that the LCB has not sent an official memo or written opinion to the board indicating that this is the case. She added that the board has directed its legal counsel, Deputy Attorney General David Gardner, a former Republican state assemblyman, to connect with the bureau on this issue and determine whether there’s a path forward.
The Legislative Counsel Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Board member and former state lawmaker Maggie Carlton said it’s not uncommon for the LCB to take a long time to issue a written opinion.
The scope of the education board’s authority has come into question over the past year. During an April 6 meeting, Ortiz said school districts are already required to have their schedules approved by the board, and the proposed regulation would simply set guard rails around start times on those schedules.
During the April 6 meeting, Gardner said it’s not “slam dunk” that the board has the authority to issue this type of regulation, but thought it could make a strong case to the LCB if it gets pushback. He said the best and easiest way to get the proposed regulation approved would be to get the Legislature to pass a bill stating the board has authority over school start times.
In September, Clark County School District (CCSD) General Counsel Luke Puschnig argued the Nevada Department of Education did not have the authority to make such a sweeping change, and threatened to take legal action or other steps to block the proposed regulation.
The board’s proposed regulation has received mixed reviews. Students such as Paige Ship, who attends North Valleys High School in Reno, submitted written public comment in favor of later high school times. She said that during her freshman year she attended a different high school that started classes at 7:20 a.m. She said the start time had a negative effect on her mood and attendance.
She said that since moving to North Valleys, where classes start at 8 a.m., her attendance has improved and she’s gotten more involved in more school events. She said she’s also having an easier time staying awake during her work shifts after school.
“Now I am able to save money for college and a better future,” she wrote in her testimony, which was read at the board’s Wednesday meeting. “I also have been getting less sick as well as feeling happier with the extra 30 minutes of sleep in the morning.”
CCSD student Diego Ramirez said he strongly believes that the 7 a.m. start times at his school district are “one of the biggest issues keeping your students from thriving in the school environment.”
The Nevada Association of School Superintendents has unanimously opposed the regulation, said Eureka County schools Superintendent Tate Else, who sits on the state board. School district officials have previously cited concerns over costs and other challenges they could face if the board moves forward with this regulation.