Montgomery County school leaders to discuss later start times for high schools

September 12, 2013

A long-anticipated discussion on whether to shift the hours of Montgomery County’s high school day— so that teenagers may get more sleep — is set for early October, shortly after the expected release of a new report.

The Montgomery County Board of Education is scheduled to take up the issue at a meeting Oct. 8, with a presentation on the new report by its “Bell Times Workgroup.” The group, which began meeting in January, examined research on teen sleep and school hours in other communities and has proposed options for change.

The close look at the issue came in December after parents submitted signatures from an online petition bearing about 10,000 names in support of moving high school start times to 8:15 a.m. or later. The opening bells of high school in Montgomery ring at 7:25 a.m., meaning many students head out to their bus stops in the 6 o’clock hour.

Supporters of later start times cite research about teen sleep cycles and a range of ill effects from sleep deprivation, including lower student achievement and driving drowsiness. Critics raise issues of cost, logistics and conflicts with other activities.

School buses in Montgomery often do multiple shifts, transporting older students first and younger students later.

Mandi Mader, director of the Montgomery County chapter of the national group Start School Later, says she will press for a vote at the school board’s late October meeting.

She is hoping for new high school hours by fall of 2014. “They would have almost a whole year to make the change,” she said.

The board’s meeting will be video-streamed on the Web and broadcast on MCPS cable channel 34.

Both Fairfax and Anne Arundel counties are also considering later high school start times.

Donna St. George writes about education, with an emphasis on Montgomery County schools.
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