Prince George’s Co. Public Schools establish standardized start times for this fall

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of the story misstated changes to school start times. In addition, the change to three start times is an operational decision that does not require board approval. This story has been corrected.

The time school starts every morning in Prince George’s County, Maryland, can vary wildly.

For example, a third grader in one neighborhood might have to show up an hour before a third grader who lives a few streets over and goes to a different school.

School leaders say that’s a contributing factor to the problems they’ve had with getting kids to school every day.

Standardizing start times is one way the school system hopes to fix that. In April, Prince George’s County schools will introduce what it says is an “operational decision.”

“We are streamlining/standardizing bell times to condense from more than 20 different start and end times to three standard start times of 7:30/8:30/9:30,” a Prince George’s County Public Schools spokeswoman said. “There will be variation, however we will have only the three start times.”

A series of community informational sessions will be announced soon before the changes take effect for the upcoming school year.

Right now, public schools in Prince George’s County start between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. At a school board meeting last week, the school system’s transportation director called it a critical change, saying more uniform start times would “balance the number of bus trips needed on each timed tier and allow us to better match the available staff with the needed bus trips.”

“Our focus is clear,” said Keba Baldwin, the school system’s director of transportation. “To provide students with safe, punctual transportation, while enhancing customer service for all involved.”

The new operational decision does not require board approval, and the board did not have any formal critiques of the new start times.

“We firmly believe these recommendations will swiftly bring about improvements in on-time arrivals, transportation safety and timely communications,” Baldwin said.

Other changes to the transportation program will include the movement of some bus stops to new locations and, in some cases, there will be students who currently can ride a bus who will be required to walk to school this fall.

The county said 57% of its schools will see start times shifted by 15 minutes or less, and only 10% of schools will see start times moved between 16 and 60 minutes. About a third of all schools will see no changes at all.

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John Domen

John started working at WTOP in 2016 after having grown up in Maryland listening to the station as a child. While he got his on-air start at small stations in Pennsylvania and Delaware, he's spent most of his career in the D.C. area, having been heard on several local stations before coming to WTOP.

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