ROCKVILLE, Md. (WNEW) — Students and parents in Montgomery County, some dressed in their pajamas, protested to push back school start times at a School Board meeting Tuesday.

A group of protesters carrying signs and chanting in unison rallied at the Carver Educational Services Center in Rockville, where the Montgomery County School Board met Tuesday morning to discuss possible changes to school start and end times for Montgomery County Public Schools.

The protesters are calling on the school board to reconsider its decision to forgo changing school times. Any proposed changes won’t go into effect for next school year, but the protesters want the School Board to know they’re not going away.

Earlier this month Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr announced that the county would scrap a proposal to change school times, 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,” 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.”

That decision came after Starr previously recommended that high school start times be moved back 50 minutes, from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. He also suggested that middle schools start classes 10 minutes later and elementary schools extend the day by 30 minutes.

“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 stated, “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 11,700 people signed a petition in favor of Montgomery County high schoolers beginning their days after 8:15 a.m.

WNEW’s Jim MacKay contributed to this report. Follow Jim on Twitter.


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