MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr went on WAMU’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on Thursday to talk later high school starting times.
Based on an appeal from a group of parents and a work group report, Starr earlier this month recommended moving the starting bell for high schools back 50 minutes, from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.
Though Starr admitted the evidence linking later start times to more sleep and better school performance is inconclusive, he told Nnamdi it would better the well-being of MCPS students.
“This is not a panacea for academic achievement, as measured by standardized test scores or anything like that,” Starr said. “This is about the state in which our kids come to school. We want our kids to be well-rested.”
Starr’s recommendation would also include moving middle school start times up 10 minutes, from 7:55 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. Starr said that was included in the recommendation simply to make the bus schedules work.
“Ten minutes is not going to make or break a kid’s success,” Starr said, after a caller to the show questioned if middle school students would be poorly affected.
Starr did say the first of four public forums, which happened this week in Silver Spring, brought up a number of practical concerns that rescheduling high school times could impose. Some students are worried about how the later start time and later ending time would affect after-school jobs and athletics. Parents who work during the day rely on older, high school-aged kids to look after younger siblings. Staff members are also worried about commuting difficulties later in the morning.
“That’s why we’re doing so much community input,” Starr said. “The intent is to get as much input from as many different folks in as many different situations to figure out how disruptive it would be to our community.”
The changes also include extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes, though Starr indicated that recommendation is unconnected to the high school start time changes.
One caller, from Potomac, told Nnamdi she supports moving the start time back.
“We have to wake up at 6 a.m. to stand at a dark bus stop at 6:30 a.m. It’s horrific,” she said. “We are like zombies.”