Younger MCPS students challenged by later school start times

WASHINGTON — Later school start times in Montgomery County, Maryland, that have been in place for nearly two years are prompting new concerns from some education leaders that younger students are having trouble adjusting.

According to The Washington Post, elementary school principals and union officials have been lobbying the county’s board of education, asking members to reinstate the old start times.

“We believe a return to the 2014-2015 bell schedule is in the best interest of our students and educators,” the teachers union said in a letter.

The union that represents the county’s principals and administrators also asked the board to reverse course, the Post reports.

Under changes implemented in 2015, high school and middle school classes start 20 minutes later than previously; elementary school days start 10 minutes later and end 20 minutes later.

The high school day now runs from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; middle schools, 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.; elementary schools in Tier 1, from 9 a.m. to 3:25 p.m., and elementary schools in Tier 2, from 9:25 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Supporters of the move say it is healthy for students and gives them more time to get adequate sleep.

But those who now are expressing concerns argue younger students are becoming too tired from having a later start time, longer bus rides and a longer day. They say some students arrive at school too early because their parents drop them off and need to get to work, while others can get home too late after extracurricular activities.

“Before the changes in bell times our students would get home closer to 4:45 pm, and now it’s beyond 5 p.m.,” Andrew Winter, principal at Lucy V. Barnsley Elementary School, told the board last month.

“Parents share that it also affects time with tutors, clubs, instrumental lessons, and sports,” he said. “I further hear about how tired students are due to the extended day of leaving an hour or more before school begins and getting home an hour or later after dismissal.”

The school board is scheduled to take up the issue during a meeting Jan. 10. The meeting agenda says members will have a “discussion about concerns regarding the impact of bell times.”

“I think there have been some unintended consequences,” Board President Michael Durso told the Post.

“We’ll look at it and discuss it and maybe there are some angles we haven’t thought of. We’re just kind of exploratory at this point.”

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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