MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr will recommend moving school start times back 20 minutes.

Starr is scheduled to detail the recommendation and other options for changing school start times in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. He’ll go before the Board of Education with his recommendation during its meeting on Jan. 13.

You can read Starr’s recommendation and the full report here.

Last June, the Board asked Starr to come up with options that would allow high school students to start school later but cost the school system less than $10 million a year.

The Board asked for the further examination after Starr reversed course on his own October 2013 recommendation that would’ve pushed back high school start times by 50 minutes and extended the elementary school day by 30 minutes.

After a series of community outreach events, Starr said last June that the proposal would cost too much — at least $21 million a year — and garnered mixed public support.


His new recommendation to push all school start times back 20 minutes won’t cost anything. Starr described it as a modest, but reasonable “move in the right direction”:

Given the cost implications and the outlook for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Operating Budget and challenges presented by each of the options discussed in the report, I recommend that the Board of Education only considers no-cost options (Shift Start Times for All Schools Later or Leave Bell Times Unchanged). The most practicable of the no-cost options is for all schools to start and end 20 minutes later. The cost implications are inconsequential and asking students, staff, and parents to adjust their routines by 20 minutes seems reasonable. Although 20 minutes is not ideal for extending sleep time, it is a move in the right direction, and it will allow the potential for some extended sleep for all involved.
I have been consistent in my support of and my belief that bell times is important to student success and well-being, but must be viewed in the context of other priorities that impact students as well as staff, families, and the broader community. Whenever there is change, it will impact many. Should the Board of Education decide to move forward with my recommendation to consider only those options that are no-cost, and if it chooses to adopt the 20 minute shift, we must be ready to work with our communities and schools that we serve.

The report describes how the major factor driving up costs of changing the school system’s schedule would be shortening the “transportation window,” the amount of time between the first bus trip to and from school and the last.


Bus drivers in MCPS frequently transport students at multiple school levels — elementary, middle and high school. Lengthening that window would allow the same drivers to transport more students at different school levels.

Other options and variations considered in the new report were shifting school start times 35 minutes later, starting elementary schools first, modifying Starr’s October 2013 proposal to minimize costs, splitting the high school day into two start times and no change.

The report also includes an analysis of current research on the impact of sleep on kids and teenagers. The school system hired research company Hanover Research to pore through literature on sleep needs of kids.


The report found that there is no conclusive evidence that start times impact student achievement, but there is research showing the positive impact of sleep on wellness factors, “such as increasing problem solving, decreasing vehicle accidents, and improving daytime sleepiness.”

Since the Board asked for further examination of the topic in June, the Maryland State Department of Education and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released a report encouraging school systems to consider moving school starting times to 8 a.m. or later.

The 20-minute option would mean MCPS high schools start classes at 7:45 a.m. and MCPS middle schools start classes at 8:15 a.m.


Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill is expected to appear with Starr at his press conference on Tuesday afternoon. The Board says it hopes to hear from the public before making a decision.
“Any change to our starting and ending times will have an impact on every student, parent, and employee in Montgomery County Public Schools, so it is important that our citizens understand the options we are considering and let their voices be heard,” O’Neill said in a school system press release.
The Board will hold two public hearings on bell times, both on Thursday, Jan. 22, 2015, in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville.
The first hearing will run from 3:30-5:30 p.m. and the second will run from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Those wishing to testify should call 301-279-3617 to reserve a spot, starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 15, 2015. All speakers will have three minutes. Written feedback can be sent to and should be submitted before the close of business on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015.
PDF: Starr Bell Times Report/Recommendation