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Work Group Formed to Consider Later School Start Times

An online petition to start county public high schools at 8:15 a.m. already had collected more than 10,000 signatures by Wednesday morning, Dec. 12.

Montgomery County public school parents and students are speaking up about school start times, and the county's school superintendent is responding.

An online petition, "Changing Montgomery County, MD's High School Start Times to 8:15 AM or Later," has asked the county school board to "officially recognize the large and compelling body of research regarding teen sleep and academic achievement," and "to start high schools in Montgomery County, MD, after 8:15 [a.m.]."

On Tuesday, Superintendent of Schools Joshua P. Starr announced that a work group has been established to study the issue.

That will come as good news to the petition's signers, who already numbered more than 10,000 by 10 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 12.

"Sleep deprivation, with such health consequences as depression, suicide, car crashes, and increased risk of other injuries, should be treated like hunger," Mandi Mader, a licensed social worker, founder of Start School Later Montgomery County and the online petition's contact person, said in a blog on Patch.

"We don’t expect children to learn without food and we shouldn’t expect them to learn without sleep," Mader wrote.

Starr's "work group will look at past reports done by MCPS on the issue; review public input and correspondence that has been received; analyze the efforts of other jurisdictions that have considered changing bell times; review current literature and research; and gather community input," according to a Montgomery County Public Schools statement.

"This is a very complex issue and I want to make sure we have a full understanding of the impact that school bell times have on student achievement and other areas of development," Starr said.

"A change in school bell times would affect every student in Montgomery County, and would have a significant impact on our budget and operations. Therefore, it is imperative we have all the information we need before making any decisions," he added.

Comments on recent Patch blogs have included:

I'm very tired at school. - Jeri, Bethesda  

At the time that school starts now, I often find myself skipping homework for sleep, and even with that, I can't concentrate or  remember most of my classes. I've also been late due to oversleeping. - Alexandra, Silver Spring  

This is ridiculous. I wake up knowing I can't sleep for hours and hours. I just need at LEAST 1 more hour of sleep. I wake up at 6 - Marc, Chevy Chase

I know many people who suffer from anxiety and depression, stress plays a big part in all that. Not enough sleep causes stress. - Nora, Silver Spring    

Read more petition comments on Heather Macintosh's Patch blog post, "Start School Later: The Kids Are Exhausted."

Read more of Macintosh's Patch blogs on the subject.

MCPS has studied the issue before—in 1998, after which it released a report, Changing Bell Times. No changes were made to school start times as a result of the report, according to a MCPS statement.

Starr's work group will begin meeting soon, and a report should be completed at some time in the spring, the statement added.

Read more about the fight to start school later and join in the Patch poll on whether schools should start later on Potomac Patch.

Holly Agouridis December 13, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Are you kidding me?? Are we seriously considering this? How many generations started high school early? You get out at 2:15pm. Do your homework when you get home and go to bed at 9pm. The problem is these kids are up all night playing games and are on social networks and that's why they are tired. So I guess when this generation graduates high school we are going to have to change the time that work starts to a later time for them as well! Give me a break. What about the parents who drive their kids to school, can they demand later start times at work because now they have to drop their kids off later. Suck it up kids because when school ends and reality begins it's going to hit you hard! We have become such a sissy nation.
Malcolm Wilson December 13, 2012 at 02:22 PM
someone needs to start a petition to overturn this. Wow, I guess when you can't get anything of substance done you make it look like you are concerned. I suppose when these kids get to college their parents can petition the colleges to abolish 8:00 a.m. classes. Only thing that works for me is rush hour will be a little lighter.
Holly Agouridis December 13, 2012 at 03:25 PM
@Malcolm great job. Let's start us a petition that we want the government to change the times of rush hour so that I don't have to leave so early in the morning to get to work on time because I can get some more sleep. If you push these kids school time to 8:15 it will mean they will have an excuse to stay up an extra hour and then we are back to square one.

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