County Approves Later Bell-Time Schedule

Sophomores+Joanna+Vigil+%28left%29+and+Tristan+Burch+%28right%29+get+off+of+the+school+bus+and+head+in+while+it+is+still+dark+out.+Students+have+trouble+maintaining+a+healthy+amount+of+sleep+every+night.+--Meklit+Bekele

Sophomores Joanna Vigil (left) and Tristan Burch (right) get off of the school bus and head in while it is still dark out. Students have trouble maintaining a healthy amount of sleep every night. --Meklit Bekele

Sophomores Joanna Vigil (left) and Tristan Burch (right) get off of the school bus and head in while it is still dark out. Students have trouble maintaining a healthy amount of sleep every night. --Meklit Bekele
Sophomores Joanna Vigil (left) and Tristan Burch (right) get off of the school bus and head in while it is still dark out. Students have trouble maintaining a healthy amount of sleep every night. –Meklit Bekele

Classes will start 20 minutes later for high school and middle school students beginning fall of 2015, following a Feb. 10 Board of Education vote on bell times. Elementary schools will also be affected, although they will only start 10 minutes later than they do presently.

The vote came after months of study by the Board of Education, with ample opportunity for community input. Though Superintendent Dr. Joshua Starr went over various options for altering the bell schedule, the board voted for one of the no-cost options.

Dr. Starr acknowledged at the meeting that 20 minutes is not a drastic a change, but said that the situation at hand “a�� must be viewed in the context of other priorities.”

Many parents expressed their desire for later start times at a recent Board hearing Jan. 22., many using anecdotes from their home life.

They cited numerous studies about teenagers’ “internal alarm clocks,” which cause them to get tired late at night, rather than earlier in the evening. This makes them sleep in much later as their growing bodies need at least nine hours of sleep a night.

“[Teenagersa��] circadian rhythms are a force more powerful than the politics of this county,” sleep specialist Helene Emsellem said during her address at the hearing.

However, Michael Durso, the vice president of the Board of Education, presented an anecdote about his time as a principal of a school in D.C. public schools. At the time, start times were as late as 9 a.m.

“I can’t say I noticed tardiness a�� behavior being significantly different,” Durso said.

Students of all ages also vocalized their opinions, most recently at a sleep-in demonstration in front of district headquarters on Feb. 9. A 2013 survey showed that 54 percent of students wanted a later start time, while 38 percent thought that the times should remain the same.

Senior Livette Arguetta thinks that the later start times will benefit students in terms of their health, though she acknowledged that there are drawbacks. “The only is we’re going to come out later, but I think sleep is more important,” she said.

On the other hand, a survey of teachers conducted by the Montgomery County Education Association revealed that a majority of teachers were not in favor of pushing the start times back at all, and did not think that it would have much positive effect on students’ education.

Other teachers were concerned that coming out of school later would impact extra-curriculars and after-school jobs.

“I personally think it’s not going to help the students because they will not have time for their activities after school,” chemistry teacher Anu Gupta said.