High School Start Time May be Pushed to 8:15 a.m.

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Adam Bensimhon
Photo taken by Adam Bensimhon

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr is pushing for a later high school start time that would give students 50 additional minutes in the morning before the start of the school day.

If Dr. Starr’s proposal becomes reality, high school students will start school at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3 p.m., while middle school students will start ten minutes earlier and elementary school students will be dismissed 30 minutes later.

Changing start and end times for schools could have a large impact on the school system’s budget. The option described above was estimated to cost about $12 million by Dr. Starr’s 2013 Bell Times Work Group because of the need to add additional bus routes.

“Does that mean we won’t get as much money for textbooks? Does that mean we won’t be able to hire as many teachers? There’s a lot of questions,” Principal Billie-Jean Bensen said.

Supporters of later start times believe that beginning school nearly an hour later will allow students to get more sleep and be well-rested, despite ending the school day later. Sleep deprivation is a common issue among high school students, and has been studied by the 2013 Bell Times Work Group.

“Studies show kids [waking up later] aren’t going to bed later,” Dr. Starr said when discussing the effects of pushing back school start and end times at a roundtable with student reporters Oct. 21. Dr. Starr also said that cost and time implications will continue to be studied. Implementation of his recommendation, if it happens, will not occur until the 2015-2016 school year.

According to Bensen, the data in the report did not suggest that pushing back start times would necessarily help students academically, but that it would have social and emotional benefits. However, some students and parents expressed concerns about what will happen when high schools end fifty minutes later and sports practices, drama rehearsals and other after school activities end up being pushed back.

“It would be nice to have a little more sleep in the morning,” senior SGA Vice President Angelalucy Devanadera said. “For me personally, I work and it’s going to wbe harder for me to get out of school later.” Devanadera attended the MCR meeting Oct. 8 with other members of SGA and other SGAs from the district, where start times were among the topics discussed.

Students would not be the only ones whose schedules would have to change if the new start times were implemented.

“There definitely would be a change for staff, and for some that’s a positive,” Bensen said. “On the other end, we have some staff who travel from a distance a�� and want to leave right after school.” Many staff members are parents who need to leave school soon after it ends to pick up their children from school or daycare.

The effects of starting high school later are still being studied by the Bell Times Work Group and will be for several months. For this time, MCPS has organized community forums that will take place throughout the winter. In addition, the county will conduct surveys, focus groups and self-guided discussions.