LANHAM, Md. (WNEW) — After months of discussing later start timesin schools, Montgomery County has scrapped the plan, citing implementation costs of more than $20 million for increased transportation, staffing, and utility costs and mixed community feedback.

“I recommended we study changing bell times because I believe it is an important issue that deserves our attention,” Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said.

“But after receiving the final cost estimates, along with mixed feedback from our community, I do not believe it is feasible or responsible to move forward with these changes at this time. However, we will continue to discuss and monitor this issue.”

In October, MCPS kicked off a series of public meetings that allowed the community to weigh in on later school start times.

Starr’s original proposal was that high school start times be moved from 7:25 a.m. to 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 at that time.

“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 2012, 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.

More than 11,500 people have signed a petition in favor of Montgomery County high schoolers beginning their days after 8:15 a.m.

Starr noted in his announcement that Governor Martin O’Malley recently signed a bill asking for a statewide study of bell times and whether public schools should start later. He says he looks forward to the results of that research.


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