A group of advocates for later high school start times made it crystal clear it opposes the recommendation to move all MCPS start times back 20 minutes.
The group went on to say the MCPS report released with the 20-minute recommendation “demonstrates a poor understanding of the research, as the document understates the significant academic, health and emotional benefits of later start times for teens.”
“Further, in drafting this report, Dr. Starr excluded the participation of community stakeholders. A more transparent, inclusive process could have provided a better report and meaningful recommendations,” read the statement, which was attributed to Mandi Mader, Ann Gallagher, Merry Eisner-Heidorn and Michael Rubenstein, members of the Montgomery County chapter of the Annapolis-based nonprofit.
The repot included other suggestions. There were four options for moving back school start times with some variations and a fifth option to make no chances.
The Board of Education is set to decide which option to take after a pair of public hearings. The report released by MCPS this week was meant to find options that would cost less than $10 million.
A previous proposal from Starr would’ve pushed back high school start times by 50 minutes (to 8:15 a.m.) and extended the elementary school day by 30 minutes. But Starr stepped back from that recommendation after the school system said it would cost about $21 million to implement, based mostly on increased transportation costs.
Members of the Start School Later group said they would support any option that pushes middle and high school start times later than 8:30 a.m.:
The report includes several inexpensive and potentially feasible options for later start times. Unfortunately, Dr. Starr has selected the single least effective of all of those options. Whichever one is finally approved, it should call for middle and high school start times after 8:30 am, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Spending pennies to deliver our kids to school at healthy times and when they’re primed for learning is smart spending. When Dr. Starr claims that we can’t afford to spend $4- $5 million more on buses (out of a multi-billion dollar budget), he’s ignoring the incredible return on investment that healthy bell times provide. But to do nothing is to cause harm and to choose the option least likely to be of any benefit is scarcely any better. We expect better.
The new MCPS 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 look through scientific literature on sleep needs of kids.
The report found 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 of Education asked for further examination of the topic last 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.