2014 | Schools

Superintendent Comes Out Against Starting School Later

Cites $20 million implementation costs and mixed community feedback

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Supt. Joshua Starr

via Montgomery County Public Schools website

Schools starting later? Probably not in Montgomery County.

Superintendent Joshua Starr announced Tuesday morning he is recommending against pushing county high school start times back 50 minutes.

Starr cited mixed community feedback and an estimated implementation cost of more than $20 million in his decision to recommend against starting school later. Starr asked the school system to study changing school start times in October.

Starr said in a statement that he believes the issue is important, “but after receiving the final cost estimates along with mixed feedback from our community, I do not believe it is feasible or responsible to move forward with these changes at this time.”

The proposal would shift high school start times from the current 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., while maintaining the current start times for middle and elementary schools.

A report released by the school system Tuesday includes a summary of public input from thousands of community members, as well as analysis of costs associated with the proposal. The report is scheduled to be discussed at the Board of Education Meeting on June 17.

The report found that parents were most in favor of the proposal, with 78 percent supporting later high school start times. High school students and staff were divided on the issue with about 50 percent of each group supporting later start times. Middle school students were in favor (70 percent) as were middle school staff (65 percent). However, elementary school students and staff were not, with less than 35 percent favoring a shift in start times.

In order to start high school later, the elementary school day would need to be extended by 30 minutes to handle the bus turnaround after dropping off high school students, according to schools spokesperson Dana Tofig. Elementary teachers expressed concern over the extended day in comments cited in the report.

Financial implications cited in the report estimate later start times would cost the school system at least $21.6 million for increased transportation, staffing and utility costs; and between $8 million to $47 million to add 30 minutes to elementary school days based on whether lunch or recess was extended (cheaper) or art, music and/or gym classes increased (more expensive).

Starr said in the statement that the school system must prioritize whether starting school later is more important than hiring more teachers or investing in other school programs.