Starr recommends later start time for high schools

By Brittany Goodman, News Editor

When the current sophmores are seniors, they may be sleeping in an extra 50 minutes each day.

The 2013 Bell Times Work Group Report was released Oct. 1 along with a recommendation from MCPS Superintendent Joshua P. Starr that MCPS consider pushing back high school start times by 50 minutes and extending the elementary school days by 30 minutes.

The changes Starr hopes to make include moving high school start times from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. with an end time of 3 p.m., have middle school days from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and extend the elementary school day by 30 minutes.

Although Principal Joan Benz is “withholding her opinion,” about the change in bell time she believes that “students would be more actively engaged in their learning in their earlier classes if school started 50 minutes later.”

According to Starr’s report, this decision is in the best interest of the students, as proven by extensive research from MCPS specialists that proves young adults are not getting enough sleep, making this a public health and safety issue, in Starr’s opinion.

MCPS plans to gather extensive input from the community and study all aspects of implementing this recommendation before coming to a final decision.  Any changes in the bell times would  not take effect until the 2015-2016 school year at the earliest.

“There are many issues that have to be looked at in depth before a decision can be made by the Superintendent and members of the Board of Education,” Benz said.

Some of these issues include considering how a school day that ends later would impact athletic programs or how the bell change would impact MCPS financially.

Twenty-five out of 30 CHS students surveyed by the Observer believe that implementing a new bell schedule would allow them to be more equipped for school and stay focused longer.

“I think that it is an amazing idea because high schoolers have to deal with a lot of stress from homework, extracurricular activities and the college application process as well,” senior Allie Curwin said. “A later start time would allow students to get more sleep and perform better at school.”

According to the Oct.1 Montgomery County Educational Association (MCEA) statement in response to The Bell Times Report, the challenge the community faces is whether it can expand instructional time for students, expand the curricular choices, and increase the planning time teachers need to implement the new curriculum.

“Research supports that high school students achieve at higher levels with later start times,” Benz said.