Starr: MCPS Bell Times Should Change by 20 Minutes

Montgomery County Public Schools should start and end 20 minutes later, according to a new proposal from Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr.

Dr. Joshua StarrPhoto | MCPS

Dr. Joshua Starr
Photo | MCPS

Starr is expected to release his proposal to the school board on Jan. 13.

According to a memo from Starr to the Board of Education, the “most practicable of the no-cost options is for all schools to start and end 20 minutes later. The cost implications are inconsequential and asking students, staff, and parents to adjust their routines by 20 minutes seems reasonable. Although 20 minutes is not ideal for extending sleep time, it is a move in the right direction, and it will allow the potential for some extended sleep for all involved.”

Starr said the other option he would support would be no change in bell times. This option could include making abbreviated school schedules more readily available to high school students or expanding the use of online courses.

Other options that fit the parameters set by the board but were not supported in the memo 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)

“I have been consistent in my support of and my belief that bell times is important to student success and well-being, but must be viewed in the context of other priorities that impact students as well as staff, families, and the broader community. Whenever there is change, it will impact many. Should the Board of Education decide to move forward with my recommendation to consider only those options that are no-cost, and if it chooses to adopt the 20 minute shift, we must be ready to work with our communities and schools that we serve,” Starr wrote in his memo.

The school board has been considering a change in bell times. The Board had requested that Dr. 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.

School Board member Rebecca Smondrowski told MyMCMedia she wants to evaluate all the no-cost options.

“While I continue to review and evaluate all of the options before Tuesday, I appreciate that we have no-cost options that appear viable. I look forward to hearing from the community on the issue at our public hearings,” she said.

The board will hold two public hearings on bell times both on Jan. 22 in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The first hearing will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and the second is scheduled from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Those wishing to testify should call 301.279.3617 to reserve a spot starting at 9 a.m. on Jan. 15. Written feedback can be sen to before close of business on Feb. 2.

Memo from Dr. Starr to BOE dated January 13, 2015

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Krista Brick

About Krista Brick

Krista Brick is a multi-media journalist with Montgomery Community Media.


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