By Mike Harris
Publisher and Editor
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision Sunday to sign legislation mandating later morning start times for middle and high schools will impact Rim schools and most of its roughly 3,200 students.
Ignoring the state’s leading teachers union, state school boards, school superintendents and even Rim’s own school board trustees and administration’s concerns, Newsom signed SB-328 into law.
The law, starting with the 2022-23 school year, requires middle schools across the state to begin no earlier than 8 a.m. High schools would start regular classes no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
Authored by Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-San Fernando, SB-328 exempts rural districts because of bus scheduling challenges.
Rim of the World Unified School District, as well as Bear Valley Unified School District, consider themselves to be rural school districts, but that’s not how they are defined by the state.
“We have to prepare for what we know, and right now we are not considered a rural school district,” Todd Beale, Rim’s associate superintendent personnel/pupil services told The Alpine Mountaineer on Tuesday.
“Our (Rim’s) understanding is that there are some initial discussions about Rim’s status for being rural, but it’s up in the air,” he added.
If Rim is not granted rural status, it is facing two very difficult choices.
One option is Rim would have to find $2 million to $3 million to pay for new buses, new drivers and associated support costs to adjust to the new school start times.
“We don’t have it,” Beale added. “And there is no state funding associated with the new law’s requirements.”
The other option is to adjust bus schedules and use Rim’s existing fleet of buses and drivers to meet the new start time requirements.
“It’s all about start times,” he said. “Our middle school could start no earlier than 8 a.m. and our high schools (Rim High and Mountain High) could start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.”
But the new state law says nothing about elementary schools. To make the new start time adjustments, Rim’s elementary kids would have to be picked up starting at 7 a.m.
That means some elementary school students would have to be at their designated bus stop before 7 a.m., perhaps even arriving 15 or 20 minutes before their pickup time. It would also mean some MPH Intermediate School kids would be getting home around 6 p.m. or even later.
“This gives us a year and a half to prepare,” Beale added. “This will have a big ripple effect on everyone.”