According to a proposal the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) submitted to the Board of Education (BOE) Nov. 2, the teacher’s union suggested changing the current bell schedule back to what it was for the 2014-15 school year.
Just last year, Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) changed the school start times in order to give students the opportunity to sleep more, a decision directed toward high school students, that cost around $1.07 million with money going to adding 10 minutes to the bell times and new lunch aide positions. To change back would cost around $1.3 million.
The proposal read, “We understand the intent to provide high school students with additional time for sleep, [but] the change in bell times has had a significant negative impact on the staff and students, most notably in the Two-Tier elementary schools.”
One of the reasons suggested for the change is so elementary school students are more capable of learning.
According to Bethesda Magazine, MCEA member Lauren Ashley Villa said school hours being earlier for elementary students will help them to focus and hopefully help them to perform better in class.
“The elementary students will be in school when they’re more alert and active,” Villa said.
Rock Creek Valley ES gym teacher Kathleen Amos has seen a difference in student’s performances from when the start time changed for the 2015-16 school year. She said they have been increasingly tired toward the end of the day and are consequently getting on the bus around 4:00 p.m. and getting home at 5:00 p.m..
Amos also believed it would be beneficial for the two-tiered elementary students to have the start time return to what it was in the 2014-15 school year.
“Younger students have more energy in the morning and are tired at the end of the day,” she said. “I would love to see us go back to the 2014-15 school year times.”
Barnsley ES Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Vice President Alison Russ has a student who is currently in second grade and she said the current bell times are difficult for her family.
“My elementary school student is awake two hours before school even begins,” she said, “20 extra minutes for high school students did not accomplish anything.”
Russ also argued that teachers opposed the current start times when they were proposed by the Superintendent in the summer of 2014.
“The majority of MCPS teachers voted for this change not to happen in the first place,” she said. “There is no data that shows that an extra 20 minutes did had a positive impact on high school students.”
According to the MCEA survey results, MCPS teachers believed that the current bell times would not be beneficial from a public health standpoint, and that later end times would create problems for after-school sports and activities.
Senior Maya Ward has experienced both bell times, and as an IB student, she prefers the 2015-16 schedule. She said that as a freshman and sophomore it was very difficult to wake up at 6:00 a.m. Waking up in the winter was especially difficult, Ward added.
“I actually started to resent school when I would be waiting at the bus stop in the dark and snow, or worse, freezing rain,” Ward said. “It was terrible. The bell times now are so much more reasonable.”
Along with this proposed change, the Board has recently voted unanimously on having school start after Labor Day, although school is still projected to end no later than June 15.
The vote on the final calendar plan is expected to take place in December. Neither the Student Member of the Board, Eric Guerci, nor full members of the BOE responded to Rampage requests for comment.