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Sleepy teens: Anne Arundel creates task force to study later high school bell times

The plight of sleep-deprived teenagers will soon get a closer look in Anne Arundel County, where school officials are creating a task force to study the hours of the school day across grade levels.

The first bells of the high school day ring at 7:17 a.m. in Anne Arundel County, earlier than start times in both Montgomery and Fairfax counties, where officials are in various stages of considering later-starting high school school days.

Under a proposal adopted Dec. 18 by the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, the district’s interim superintendent, Mamie J. Perkins, will create the new task force. A task force report is expected by fall.

Meanwhile, the school board asked that an online survey be created about shifting school hours.

“We’re thrilled that the school system is going to take a serious look at how later start times can benefit high school students,” said parent Heather Macintosh, co-leader of the Anne Arundel County chapter of Start School Later, a national organization.

The Anne Arundel group launched an online petition that asked that no child of any age be required to be in class before 8 a.m. or on a bus before 7 a.m. It says bus pick-ups in Anne Arundel begin as early as 5:50 a.m. The petition includes more than 3,900 names.

“We’re hoping the task force will provide some real solutions,” Macintosh said.

The new online survey, posted on the district’s Web site until Jan. 29, asks for opinions about resetting school hours 13 minutes later for all students. Officials said the idea was viewed as a possible easy-to-implement interim measure and would be discussed by the board in coming months.

Last winter, Anne Arundel released a preliminary assessment of costs, impacts and transportation issues related to later start times.

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

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