The Half Moon Bay High School Health and Wellness Committee is a relatively new collaboration between community members, parents and Cabrillo Unified School District staff.

The collective, whose success is already manifested by the new high school later start as well as the block schedule, was formed to address a simple but important issue: sleep.

As data regarding teenage sleep patterns started to flood in, parents expressed alarm that “zero” period at Half Moon Bay High School started at 6:40 a.m.

Even though this early start had been in place for approximately 17 years, that didn’t stop Cabrillo Unified School District Superintendent Jane Yuster and Half Moon Bay High School Principal John Nazar from examining the issue.

In the spirit of collaboration, both administrators gathered with concerned parents and others. A committee was formed to look at the school start time.

“When I started a petition to make the change, I thought I’d be getting a bunch of lip service,” said Rick Southern, a member of the Half Moon Bay High School Health and Wellness Committee. “Instead, (Nazar) invited me to come sit down. The superintendent sat down. I saw that they both had a genuine interest in looking at the issue.”

The rest is now history. A later start was implemented, which meant teens could now sleep a bit. Traffic into Half Moon Bay during the morning rush was also somewhat alleviated.

As the community as a whole enjoys that fruits of the committee’s efforts, the collective is continuing to make inroads toward improving the wellness of the high school population.

“This year, we are coming up with a new agenda,” said Southern. “We are conducting little focus groups with students from Half Moon Bay High School to see where their biggest concerns are. That’s what is going to drive the focus on the committee.”

“We know that depression and anxiety rates in teenagers is on the rise nationally,” said Dr. Keely Sikes Rollings, a licensed clinical psychologist who works on the Half Moon Bay High School Health and Wellness Committee. “Students are reporting more and more anxiety and Half Moon Bay is not immune to that. We, too, are seeing higher incidents of depression, anxiety.

“The nice thing about this Health and Wellness Committee is that we’re a group of parents, administrators and physicians whose whole goal is understanding what is driving these issues as well as understand what those issues are and trying to put things in place, like late start, and block schedules to eliminate that for students,” she said.

Along with Sarah Bunkin, Rollings has been conducting discussions with student groups in an effort to understand what issues they have.

“We felt like it was really important to hear from the students as to what their concerns are,” said Rollings. “We’re in the process of really trying to drill down into what those issues are.

“The process is phenomenal,” she continued. “Students were very willing and very open to articulate, were willing to come up with solutions.”

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