MCPS to hold meetings on later start times

Photo: Alan Cleaver via Flickr

Montgomery County Public Schools will hold a series of public meetings over the 2013-14 school year to gather feedback on a proposed plan to change the starting and ending times for county schools.

On Oct. 1, Superintendent Joshua Starr released a plan that would call for high schools to begin 50 minutes later - from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. Middle schools would start 10 minutes earlier - from 7:55 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. Elementary schools would start at their regular times - 8:50 a.m. and 9:15 a.m., but the day would be extended by 30 minutes. The additional time would amount to 92 hours of added instructional time.

Starr based his recommendations on a nine-month study commissioned from the Bell Times Work Group.

"While data indicating that changing bell times increases student achievement is inconclusive, we can conclude that sleep deprivation in adolescents and adults is a public health issue," Starr wrote in an Oct. 8 letter to the Board of Education.

The study finds that adolescents need up to nine hours of sleep per night and that many high school students who need to rise early for school struggle to get sufficient sleep.

Getting adequate sleep helps increase important brain functions vital to the learning process, the study suggests. A good night's sleep also contributes to lower car crash rates, lower rates of obesity, and decreased depression.

Seventy percent of the 4,335 parents of high school students surveyed said the 7:25 a.m. start time was too early, according to the report. Sixty-nine percent surveyed preferred a later start time by either 30 minutes or one hour. Forty-four percent of parents reported that a later bell time would have a positive impact on their child's safety.

The later start times would go into effect in the 2015-16 school year.

All meetings will be held between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

Forum schedule:

Monday, Oct. 28: Paint Branch High School

Monday, Dec. 16: Richard Montgomery High School

Monday, Jan. 6: Seneca Valley High School

Monday, Feb. 10: Montgomery Blair High School

Superintendent Starr's Recommendation