Start School Later: School Board to Prioritize Healthy Students

MCPS prioritizes health and social and emotional well-being of children. Let's consider sleep and healthy school start times.


A memorandum dated Sept. 11, 2012, lists the Fiscal Year 2014 Board Operating Budget Interests.  Among the Top 10 Priorities, I was impressed to note that the second item was this: 

"Meet the needs of each individual child, including their health and social and emotional well-being" 

This is exciting because it opens the door for Montgomery County's administration to consider changing the school start time to one that better reflects adolescent and teen sleep needs. The evidence that a 5:30 a.m. wake-up call for teenagers is dangerously out of sync with their sleep needs is more than clear. Parents, sleep scientists, educators, health-care providers and mental-health experts are calling for this change and we need to look seriously at the long and short-term impact on our kids' health.  

Other issues like after-school jobs, bus schedules, sports practices can be accommodated and have been successfully adjusted in many other school districts. A very recent study takes a careful look at five years of data from the change to a later start time in Edina and Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is not an impossible challenge.

It is impossible to justify causing harm to a child's health and social and emotional well-being through inaction. 

I'm inspired by the local school board and its willingness to make this a priority. The document further states: "These top 10 interests are to guide the Superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in the development of his Fiscal Year 2014 Operating Budget Recommendation." 

Good luck to Superintendent Joshua Starr - we'll be watching and hoping that a healthy school start time is soon part of the plan for Montgomery County. 

Start School Later is a volunteer national coalition. We are dedicated to increasing public awareness about the relationship between sleep and school hours and to ensuring school start times compatible with health, safety, education, and equity. Please visit our website to learn more at www.startschoollater.net.  We would like to hear from you!

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KG Cook September 21, 2012 at 01:08 PM
I am 100% in support of changing the school start times for the middle and high schools in Montgomery County. How do we make this happen? Do we propose this to the Board of Ed?
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. September 21, 2012 at 01:48 PM
KG, the evidence for later, healthier school hours is crystal clear, but the will to change is not, and not for lack of trying. This article in Education Week explains why: tinyurl.com/7nl9bwf . We're trying to change the approach to this frustrating issue by joining forces across the state and across the country. You can join get more info at www.StartSchoolLater.net and by looking at our online petition: tinyurl.com/82leprp.
Dolores Skowronek September 21, 2012 at 04:26 PM
The board is very wise to prioritize the well-being of its students. Acknowledging that early high school start times impact health, safety, and academics is a good place to start. Adolescent sleep deprivation has become so pervasive in the United States that sleep researchers and other experts frequently refer to the problem as “epidemic”. In many communities, early start times intensify the problem. In fact, the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services recently identified sufficient sleep for students in grades 9-12 as a nationwide health improvement priority by including it as an objective in Healthy People 2020. The new objective is based on data generated by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System which monitors health-risk behaviors that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults.
Leah binder September 24, 2012 at 01:19 AM
I agree 100%. Also the Elementary students could start at the earlier hours. So many working parents would love to see their wee ones off and still get to work in DC on time! For adolescent age kids parents are comfortable letting them get to the bus in their bing on their own.
Heather Macintosh September 24, 2012 at 04:25 PM
KG and Leah, joining us at Start School Later would be a great step. We've successfully helped the Seattle School district fight a crazy change to an even earlier hour by providing them with all the data they needed to make the case to their school board. We have chapters in several counties and would love to support the creation of a group in Montgomery. This county leads others in Maryland education in so many ways, maybe leading the charge to make this critical change for the sake of our kids can be next. There's a facebook page started by a high school student that you could join and energize the dialogue: http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Move-Montgomery-County-High-School-Start-time-to-830-am-or-later/221125037917648 and also check out http://www.facebook.com/#!/StartSchoolLater for our page - always current. Start School Later been working hard at this for a year now - and we're ready to grow. We need help to try and reach all of the government agencies, elected officials and members of the community that we've determined are going to be crucial in moving this initiative forward. Thanks for your comments!


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