New law establishes pilot program for later HS start times

TRENTON, NJ — On Aug. 9, Gov. Phil Murphy signed a new law establishing a four-year pilot program to provide later school start times for high school students in some New Jersey districts. 

“Teens are not getting enough sleep, and early school start times are a big part of the problem,” state Sen. Richard Codey, a primary sponsor of the bill, said. Codey represents parts of Essex and Morris counties. “Moving back start times would provide significant advantages for the learning abilities, health, safety, and overall well-being of students. This idea isn’t coming from sleepy kids; it is supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and the CDC.” 

School districts will submit an application to participate in the pilot to the Department of Education, and five will be selected. Participating schools will then submit a report to the governor and legislature when the program concludes. These will include an assessment of the health, academic and safety benefits as well as any potential negative impacts on school districts and families.

“Teens are operating on too little sleep to the detriment of their physical, social, emotional and ultimately academic well-being,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey, who co-sponsored the bill in the Assembly. Jasey represents parts of Essex and Morris counties. “With later school start times, students could get a little more sleep giving them just the extra boost they need for success. It’s a strategy that has great potential to work in our largely diverse state and merits our attention.”

In 2015, legislation called for a study on later school start times in middle and high schools. The study findings were released in 2017, and confirmed evidence of benefits to student health, safety and academic performance. Much of the opposition to such action was driven by logistical concerns, such as transportation and after-school activities.

“The information gathered from this pilot program will be beneficial in measuring the impact the change would have in the academic performance of students,” Codey said. “I believe that this change will provide our students with the best environment to thrive academically and with respect to their physical and mental health.”