Board of Ed Votes to Change School Start Times
By Kevin O’Rourke
It looks like Montgomery County Public Schools students will be able sleep a bit later starting next year, as the Board of Education has voted to push back school starting times by about 20 minutes.
The well-publicized and much debated issue of changing school start times for MCPS has been settled with the Board approving the change at a meeting on Tuesday, Feb.10.
In the end the Board of Education chose the option supported by outgoing Superintendent of Schools Joshua Starr that would not impact the school system’s budget. Under this change, high school will attend school from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and middle school students will attend school from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Elementary schools that begin at 8:50 a.m. will now begin at 9 a.m. and will end at 3:25 p.m. (Tier 1). Elementary schools that begin at 9:15 a.m. will now begin at 9:25 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. (Tier 2).
“Although 20 minutes may not be ideal for extending sleep time for all high school students, it is a move in the right direction,” said Patricia B. O’Neill, president of the Board of Education. “We want to thank the community for sharing their thoughts and concerns with us and for being very engaged throughout this process.”
The decision to push back bell times was a five-to-three vote with Board members Rebecca Smodrowski, Patricia O’Neill, Julie Ortman-Fouse and student representative Dahlia Huh voting in favor. Board members Christopher Barclay and Judy Docca and Vice President Michael Durso voted against changing bell times.
“The Board of Education discussed and deliberated this issue a great deal and carefully weighed all of the options,” Mrs. O’Neill said. “In the end, I believe that we were able to balance the desire to start school later with the fiscal realities we are facing as a county.”
The Board rejected a proposal by Board member Phillip Kaufman which would have moved elementary school to start times to 7:45 am or 8:15 am and pushed high school start times back to 8:50 am, and have middle schools start at 9:30 am.
Upon release of the options on January 6, MCPS launched a significant effort to obtain community feedback on the proposed options. The district created materials to explain the options to the community and inform them how they could share their opinions with the Board. The materials, which were posted on the MCPS website, were translated into six languages and distributed to parents across the district.
The Board of Education held two public hearings on the options and received more than 2,000 emails. MCPS worked with stakeholder groups and community partners to gather feedback from a diverse group of MCPS parents, students, staff and community members. A detailed report on the feedback was provided to the Board on February 6.