County changes school start times with input from community rally


Kristen Gamzon Cook

A MCPS student participates in the “Save our Sleep” protest outside of the Carver Educational Services Center Feb. 9.

By Hannah Yasharoff, Public Relations and Social Media Editor

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted Feb. 10 to push back MCPS starting times, effective next school year. High school and middle schools will begin 20 minutes later and elementary schools will begin 10 minutes later.

According to a press release from Board President Patricia O’Neill, the change “will have no impact on the operating budget and will cause minimal disruption to the operations of our district.”

The decision was influenced in part by community movements, such as the Montgomery County chapter of the Start School Later (SSL) group, protesting against early school start times.

“We set out to put pressure on them, and that’s what we did,”said Kristen Gamzon Cook, an MCPS parent and SSL member. “This was our last push to really show support for school starting later.”

The group participated in a “Sleep-In” protest called “Save our Sleep” outside of the Carver Educational Services Center Feb. 9 after school to raise awareness for student health concerns that arise from a lack of sleep. The campaign included over 100 MCPS students and parents dressed in pajamas and inside sleeping bags to emphasize students’ need for more sleep during the school week.

“Studies show that adolescents cannot fall asleep earlier, and if they aren’t falling asleep earlier then they aren’t getting the required sleep they need with this current bell schedule,” Cook said. “One point of our protest was to point out that fixing this will only take a very small amount of the education budget. But this is a public health concern, so the money shouldn’t be the biggest concern when you look at the scope of the problem.”

In addition to the protest, SSL was also responsible for an online petition to move high school starting times to 8:15 a.m. or later. The petition has almost 14,000 signatures as of Feb. 9.

Under the new schedule, high school starting times will be pushed back to 7:45 a.m., 30 minutes shy of the SSL proposal. However, MCPS community members are still hopeful that this change will make a positive impact on getting ready for school.

“From a parent perspective, I think it’s going to be much easier to wake my kids up,” said CHS math teacher Monica Malanoski, who has three elementary school-aged children. “For them, 20 minutes does make a big difference.”

From a teacher’s perspective, however, Malanoski has a different view.

“If they’re looking for student improvement, I don’t think there’s going to be much of a change there,” Malanoski said. “I think it’s pretty much the same.”

*Gil Jacobson contributed to this article