Sleepy teens: Thousands being surveyed about school hours in Montgomery


File: Montgomery County Superindendent Joshua Starr has proposed shifting the hours of the school day. The school district is surveying students, parents and staff about the idea. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)

Thousands of students, teachers and parents will be surveyed through late March about whether Montgomery County should shift the hours of the school day, as part of a plan intended to give teenagers more sleep.

The surveys are part of a broad effort to collect community reaction to a proposal that would reset high school start times to 8:15 a.m., nearly an hour later than now. The plan was offered by Superintendent Joshua P. Starr in October, and several community meetings have been held since then. Another is set for Feb. 10.

Starr’s proposal, aimed at the health and well-being off teenagers, follows the release of a report by a district-created study group. It recommends schedule changes across grades: Middle school would start at 7:45 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than now, and elementary school dismissals would come 30 minutes later in the afternoons.

How a majority of students, parents and staff view these ideas is still an open question.

All of the Montgomery school district’s employees - more than 22,000 - are being asked to give their opinions, officials said. Those surveys are under way, officials said.

About 70,000 students will soon be asked to take the surveys online — two grades each of high school, middle school and elementary school.

In addition, 60,000 parents and guardians will be asked to participate. Parents selected to take the survey are a demographically and geographically representative group, officials said.

School officials are doing more analysis on the proposal’s cost and on transportation issues. The matter will be brought to both Starr and the school board again, with any changes made would start in the 2015 - 2016 school year at the earliest.

The last of four community meetings is scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring.

School officials have also encouraged smaller discussion groups to collect feedback through “Neighbor to Neighbor” sessions. More than 25 such groups have contributed. For those who want to weigh in by e-mail, the address is: belltimes@mcpsmd.org.

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