Public Rings in Opinions at MCPS Bell Times Hearing (PHOTOS)

There were two hours of testimony in the bell times public hearing Thursday afternoon, the first of two hearings on the issue of whether to change the start and end time at the county’s schools.image

The meeting time allowed for 31 speakers to express their views on the proposals offered on bell times.The hearings were held at 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Many of the speakers pointed to pediatric health studies as reasons to move forward the middle and high school start of the day. Others recounted stories of their children who could not hear their alarm clocks in the morning because they were sleeping so soundly and struggles other students have with early morning classes.

The school board has been considering a change in bell times. The Board had requested that Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr present options that would allow high school students to start school later and cost less than $10 million a year. The Board made the request after the district decided not to move forward with a previous bell times recommendation due to the significant costs—at least $21 million a year—and mixed community support.

Starr has suggested shifting start and end tines by 20 minutes. He has also said he would support no change in the current bell time schedule.

Other options proffered that fit the parameters set by the board but were not supported by Starr include:

  • Start elementary schools first (with variations for start times and length of school day)
  • Modify the superintendent’s proposal from October 2013 to reduce costs
  • “Split” the high school day into two start times (leaving unchanged elementary and middle school start times and length of school day)

Mandi Mader, chair of the Montgomery County chapter of Start School Later, Inc. suggested the county find a way to start school for high schoolers at 8:30 a.m.

“We all make adjustments and this would be one of those adjustments that would have to be made,” she said.

Michael Rubinstein, a parent of a Blake High School student, called Starr’s proposal of a 20-minute shift in start and end time “laughable” adding that he believed Starr was “dragging his feet” on making a more substantial proposal.

Allison Erdman, an MCPS high school teacher, however said an adjustment in the school day could negatively impact teachers who work at MCPS but live outside of the county.

“It would cause us to commute in rush hour,” she said, adding that teachers who have children attending school in another county might also have difficulty in coordinating two school day schedules. She said the move could lead to staff leaving their jobs with MCPS.

When asked by MyMCMedia to respond to some of the comments made Thursday, Starr flatly refused.

Board President Patricia O’Neill said she was anxious to hear all the testimony before making a decision on the options. At-large board member Philip Kauffman said he was leaning toward backing a plan that would create a 35 minute shift for middle and high school students.

The board is expected to vote on the bell times issue Feb. 10.

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Aline Barros

About Aline Barros

Aline Barros is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media. She can be reached at and on Twitter at @AlineBarros2.


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