LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — Parents say high school students can benefit from later bell times in a range of ways — from feeling less depressed and irritable to getting in fewer traffic accidents driving to and from school and extracurricular activities.
On Monday night, Montgomery County Public Schools kicked off a series of public meetings that will allow the community to weigh in on new school start times proposed by Superintendent Joshua P. Starr.
Starr is recommending that high school start times be moved from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.. More than 11,500 people have signed a MoveOn.org petition in favor of Montgomery County high schoolers beginning their days after 8:15 a.m.
“I am making this recommendation because I believe it is in the best interests of our students,” Starr said in a statement.
“There is extensive research that demonstrates that adolescents are simply not getting enough sleep. This is a public health and safety issue. If we are truly committed to the well-being of our students, we must consider the feasibility of adjusting our start times to support their health and success.”
In December, Starr tasked a “Bell Times Work Group” with gathering information about potential benefits of moving bell times.
Members of that group found that “insufficient sleep contributes to a range of physical, psychological, and public safety problems.”
More specifically, their report states, “research shows that insufficient sleep in adolescents is associated with higher rates of obesity; increased incidences of depression; delayed reward-related brain function and lower levels of
motivation; lowered ability to complete abstract and complex tasks; lower levels of
attentiveness; and increased numbers of traffic accidents.”
They also learned that 70 percent of parents of Montgomery County high school students and 63 percent of high school students themselves consider the 7:25 a.m. high school start time too early.
Public meetings to collect feedback on the proposed changes are scheduled for:
- Monday, December 16: Richard Montgomery High School, 250 Richard Montgomery Drive in Rockville
- Monday, January 6: Seneca Valley High School, 19401 Crystal Rock Drive in Germantown
- Monday, February 10: Montgomery Blair High School, 51 University Blvd., East, in Silver Spring
All forums will be held 7 p.m. –8:30 p.m. Free child care (ages 4 and older) and interpretation services will be provided.
Starr has also proposed moving middle school start times from 7:55 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. and extending the school day for elementary schoolers by 30 minutes.