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Pilot Program Will Test Later Start Times in New Jersey Schools

Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation last week (S3160) that will require the Department of Education to establish a four-year pilot program testing later school start times for high school students.

The governor also took action on a bill that will require all New Jersey public schools to include mental health instruction in K through 12 health curriculums. The bill (S2861) aims to enhance student understanding, attitudes, and behaviors related to mental health to promote well-being.

“We are striving to do all that we can to improve health and wellness for our students,” said Governor Murphy. “By ensuring that children in grades K through 12 learn about mental health, we can promote a healthier future for New Jersey. Research also shows that academic progress may be negatively impacted by starting school too early. By testing the viability of changing start times, we are exploring ways to improve learning outcomes for New Jersey students.”

S2861 will require the State Board of Education to review and update the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to ensure that mental health education is incorporated in an age-appropriate way in K through 12 health curriculums. The legislation was sponsored by Senators Kristin Corrado, Richard Codey, and Joseph Vitale and Assemblymembers Gary Schaer, John McKeon, Joann Downey, Raj Mukherji and Daniel Benson.

S3160 will assess how shifting start times would impact districts overall, including how extracurricular activities may be impacted and how transportation to and from school would be affected. Under the legislation, Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet will select five school districts to participate in the pilot program. Those school districts must include urban, suburban, and rural areas of the state.

The legislation was sponsored by Senator Richard Codey and Assemblymembers Mila Jasey, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Carol Murphy.

“These new laws are a great example of educational equity at work,” said Education Commissioner Lamont O. Repollet. “Educating students about mental health prioritizes approaches like social and emotional learning programs that give students the necessary skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, and make responsible decisions. It’s an important step toward building positive school climates and supportive learning environments for all of our students. The pilot program on later start times for high school students will also allow the Department of Education to gain important impact on how students and families would be impacted by changes to the school day.”