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The school district opted to choose bell schedules that are more familiar to the students who are returning to campus. File photo
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San Dieguito will not push back school start times this fall

ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Union High School District has approved new bell schedules for all 10 of its schools as it prepares to send students back for in-person instruction five days a week largely due to low numbers of new COVID-19 cases countywide.

As of right now, none of the district’s four-year high schools will be in compliance with Senate Bill 328, signed into law in 2019, which calls for high schools in the state of California to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

However, the law does not go into full effect until the 2022-2023 school year.

“We have kids that haven’t been on campus for two years. And what they remember about being on campus is the pre-pandemic start time,” said Bryan Marcus, associate superintendent for educational services. “You think of a school as a mini-city, there are a lot of components of that city that have to be checked in order to make sure that the following year it runs effectively.”

Because of that, the district opted to choose bell schedules that are more familiar to the students who are returning to campus.

Canyon Crest Academy will have its first period beginning at 8 a.m., La Costa Canyon High School and Torrey Pines High School at 7:40 a.m., San Dieguito High School Academy at 7:50 a.m.

Sunset High School, the district’s continuation high school that serves grades 9-10, will hold its first-period class at 8:30 a.m.

There was consensus among all of the board members for their desire to have start times be more in compliance with SB 328 this year, but at this point, the district says making those changes would be too disruptive.

Board President Mo Muir questioned why this topic was not brought to the board sooner than June.

“I can’t speak for my predecessor but that probably should have been brought to the board to discuss so they had some policy input on that,” Interim Superintendent Lucile Lynch said.

Trustee Michael Allman expressed his frustration in having this issue brought in front of him at this point of the calendar year.

“I’m extremely disappointed in (former Superintendent Dr. Robert Haley), he’s not here but I’ll throw him under the bus,” Allman said. “The fact that this is the first time that I, as a board member, am aware of and have been explained the bell schedule for the fall is way too late.”

District staff made it clear in their report that it is too late at this point of the year to change the bell schedule from what they laid out in their report.

Ethan Fitzgerald, the student body president at San Dieguito Academy, also advocated for the board to move start times to 8:30 sooner rather than later.

“The science is clear and this is no longer an issue we can push down the road. We must learn from the experience of the past year. School start times during the pandemic were finally appropriate. To take that away now as our days will once again be longer would be counter-productive,” Fitzgerald said.

The board approved the bell schedule as presented by district staff in a 3-1 vote with Trustee Allman being the lone vote against.