December 4, 2012

This is my family’s first year at a Montgomery County high school, and my 14-year-old daughter is getting up around 6 a.m., before it’s light outside. She arrives at school by 7:10 a.m. and comes home as late as 7 p.m. (She’s on the JV basketball team; she’ll arrive home later if she makes varsity.) Then she has hours of homework and is lucky to get to bed before 11 p.m.

My other daughter attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in the county, and she arrives by 8:10 a.m. She also has homework and extracurricular activities. Getting up an hour later makes a huge difference to her attentiveness and attitude.

I think most Montgomery County families would support an investment in new buses, if that’s what’s needed to make possible a later school start time. Other area counties have managed the adjustment — Loudoun, Arlington and Alexandria. If large numbers of Montgomery parents want a change, it deserves consideration.

While some worry about a negative effect of this change on school sports and activities, we need to remember that the mission of our schools is to educate, not to train athletes or prepare students for stardom on Broadway.

Extracurricular activities are only relevant to a subsection of the student body. At-risk students often drop out because of tardiness, absenteeism and struggles to perform when sleep-deprived.

If Montgomery County wants to continue leading the way in public education, it’s time to innovate. Brain and sleep studies support the benefits of later start times for high school students.

Renee Sklarew, Rockville