School Board to Vote on Later Bell Times June 17

Yellow school busA school board vote on whether to push high school start times back almost an hour and extend elementary school dismissal times by 30 minutes is scheduled for June 17,  according to Montgomery County Public Schools Spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala.

The vote, which will be held during the scheduled school board meeting, follows a recommendation from MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr in October suggesting that the change would allow teenagers to get more sleep and align the elementary school education time with other school systems in the State.

Starr’s proposal came after a work group, formed in December 2012, studied the start times for public schools in the area and looked at whether a change is needed from a health standpoint. The report reflects research, reports from sleep experts, efforts of other school districts, and previous efforts documented in reports published by MCPS.

“Many high school students who need to rise early for school struggle to get sufficient sleep,” Starr wrote in his report. “For example, to obtain nine hours of sleep, a high school student who needs to rise at 6:00 a.m., as would be typical in MCPS where students may need to catch the bus by 6:45 a.m., would need to be asleep by 9:00 p.m., which is not only unlikely for a variety of reasons, but also counter to adolescent physiology. When high school start times are moved later, available research shows that students do take advantage of the opportunity to get more sleep rather than simply staying up later.”

The proposed times would have high school students starting school at 8:15 a.m. instead of the current 7:25 a.m. start time. High school students would then be dismissed at 3 p.m., 40 minutes later than the current dismissal time.

There would be no change to the start time for elementary school students, but the dismissal time for students would be 30 minutes later than current dismissal time.

The smallest change would come for middle school students, who would start school ten minutes earlier at 7:45 a.m. and get out of school ten minutes earlier at 2:30 p.m.

A petition to change the start times started by a MCPS parent has more than 11,000 signatures, with local parents saying that it’s a public health issue and that students need sleep in order to focus.

“I definitely see how tired my teen is as she heads out the door at 6:30 a.m. for her bus,” commented parent Lynne Thomas from Potomac in signing the petition. “Frankly, it is also dangerously dark outside to walk to the stop.”

“I realize there are a lot of logistics to deal with when considering this change but it is so important,” commented Margaret Cohen from Bethesda in signing the petition. “I know that other school districts have implemented it successfully, some even have the elementary school buses come before the middle and high school ones. It makes the most sense since younger kids go to sleep earlier. Teens’ body clocks don’t physically allow this to happen, but they still need a solid 9 hours of sleep,” she writes.

But not everyone is behind the switch.

A petition against the change started by a local parent has more than 100 signatures with parents concerned about the impact of times on teens and younger elementary school-age students.

“The current school day does not get my youngest elementary-aged child home until nearly 4 p.m.,” commented parent Deb Stahl. “Given that in 3rd grade she regularly has over an hour of homework daily, this leaves notime for her to be a child. If the elementary day is extended next school year without more down time for students…it will make our decision to homeschool that much easier.”

“I’m all for starting high school later but not in favor of extending the elementary day any more than it is,” writes Traci Levine. “Why can’t elementary and HS students switch times? I’m fine with elementary starting sooner but I’m not fine with extending their current day.”

What do you think about the proposed bell time changes? Share your thoughts below. 

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Valerie Bonk

About Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk is a multimedia reporter and community engagement specialist with Montgomery Community Media (MCM).


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