Montgomery County Public Schools is now considering several no-cost options to shift school start times later.
Superintendent Joshua Starr recommended in a memo dated Jan. 13 to the Board of Education that it only consider cost-free options for later school start times due to a bleak budget outlook for next year. Starr noted the most practical option would be for all schools to start 20 minutes later.
“The cost implications are inconsequential and asking students, staff, and parents to adjust their routines by 20 minutes seems reasonable,” Starr wrote. “Although 20 minutes is not ideal for extending sleep time, it is a move in the right direction, and it will allow the potential for some extended sleep for all involved.”
Other recommendations include starting elementary schools first, leaving bell times unchanged and modifying the superintendent’s 2013 proposal to reduce costs.
In June, the school board requested that Starr present them with lower cost options after he presented a $21 million plan that would shift high school start times back 50 minutes, but start middle schools earlier. The plan would have shortened the window for buses to make turnarounds for later routes and increased the elementary school day by 30 minutes, which contributed to the higher price tag, according to school officials.
MCPS high schools start at 7:25 a.m., middle schools at 7:55 a.m., and elementary schools are on a two-tier schedule with some starting at 8:50 a.m. and others at 9:15 a.m. The 20-minute shift would result in all schools ending 20 minutes later.
Starr’s memo cites multiple studies that found benefits resulting from later school start times, particularly for high school students, including decreased vehicle accidents involving teen drivers and increased problem-solving ability among students. The memo also references a state study that encouraged the Maryland Board of Education to advise local school systems about the feasibility of implementing school start times no earlier than 8 a.m.
A second no-cost model presented in the memo would shift all start times 35 minutes later, which would mean high schools would begin at 8 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m.
Starr is scheduled to present his recommendations to the board at its Jan. 13 meeting. The school system has created a "changing bell times" website to provide more information about options its considering for later start times.
School start times via Supt. Josh Starr's memo: