Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr on Tuesday recommended pushing back high school start times by 50 minutes and extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes.
MCPS says the recommendation is based on a report from a work group charged to study the issue of school start times. Many MCPS parents have argued a later high school start time would mean more awake and more productive days for the system’s teenage students.
Starr and the Bell Times Work Group will make a presentation to the Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 8. MCPS promised an extensive outreach period and a study of cost and operational impacts. The earliest any changes would happen is the 2015-2016 school year.
“I am making this recommendation because I believe it is in the best interests of our students. There is extensive research that demonstrates that adolescents are simply not getting enough sleep. This is a public health and safety issue,” Starr said in a prepared release. “If we are truly committed to the well-being of our students, we must consider the feasibility of adjusting our start times to support their health and success.
“At the same time, I realize my recommendation may have a substantial impact on the lives of our students, staff, families, and school communities. Therefore, we must take the time to determine the costs and operational impact of my recommendation and gather input from as many stakeholders as possible before we make a final decision next year.”
Starr’s recommendations include three changes:
Move high school start times 50 minutes later, from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. with school ending at 3 p.m. instead of 2:10 p.m.
Move middle school start times 10 minutes earlier, from 7:55 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. with school ending at 2:30 p.m. instead of 2:40 p.m.
Keep elementary school start times (8:50 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.) as they are but extend the school day by 30 minutes so school ends at 3:35 p.m. and 4 p.m.
The elementary school change would make the elementary school day six hours and 45 minutes, the same length as middle and high schools.
Starr said the extra 30 minutes for elementary school would come out to an extra 14 days of instruction. A full-cost analysis and public input is expected by spring of 2014.
Those pushing for later high school start times say high school students don’t get enough sleep. Many high school students must get up before 6 a.m. to get to school on time, “making it unlikely they will get a sufficient amount of sleep,” according to the work group report.
MCPS says the public input phase will consist of four public meetings, focus groups, surveys and other opportunities to chime in. MCPS says it will announce a public input and outreach schedule later this month. It is asking residents with comments about Starr’s recommendation to email firstname.lastname@example.org.