Mont. Co. superintendent to pitch changing school schedules

WASHINGTON – The top school official in Montgomery County is pushing for significant changes to school schedules.

Superintendent Joshua Starr will give a presentation to the Board of Education on Oct. 8 that recommends pushing back the high school opening bell 50 minutes, starting school at 8:15 a.m. instead of at the current 7:25 a.m.

“I am making this recommendation because I believe it is in the best interest of our students,” Starr says in the release.”There is extensive research that demonstrates that adolescents are simply not getting enough sleep.”

For middle school, Starr wants classes to begin 10 minutes earlier, at 7:45 a.m. instead of the current 7:55 a.m.

For elementary school, Starr favors lengthening the school day by 30 minutes. Currently, students’ six-hour, 15-minute school day starts at either 8:50 a.m. or 9:15 a.m. and is 30 minutes shorter than the day for high school and middle school students. It is the second-shortest grade-school day in the state.

“This would add the equivalent of 14 days of instruction to our elementary grades, providing additional learning opportunities for students and staff,” Starr says in the release.

Starr’s recommendations are based on a report by the 2013 Bell Times Work Group, which has studied school schedules in the county for the last 10 months.

Starr says after making his presentation to the board, staff will conduct extensive outreach to gather input from students, parents, school staff and community members.

Some people have brought up the concern that different start times will affect traffic, although the exact impact isn’t known.

“I’m sure that we’ll meet … the traffic impact that might have and I’m sure we’ll try to predict what that impact will be,” says John Matthews, former transportation director for Montgomery County Public Schools who served on the committee looking at school schedules.

The schedule changes are still recommendations, and both the cost and traffic impact will be weighed over the next year. Starr says he expects to have a full cost analysis by spring 2014.

The earliest the changes would go into effect is in the 2015-2016 school year.

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