Montgomery County Elects to Change Bell Schedule

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   On Tuesday Feb. 10, 2015, the Montgomery County Board of Education elected to change school starting and ending times for all schools in Montgomery County. This change is set to take effect next year.

Currently, elementary schools start school at either 8:50 a.m. or 9:15 a.m. and end at 3:05 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. respectively. middle schools start at 7:55 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m., while high-schools start at 7:25 a.m. and end at 2:10 p.m.

Under the new start times, elementary schools would start ten minutes later while middle and high schools would start 20 minutes later.

This proposed change has no impact on the district’s current budget, and no additional means of transportation is necessary.

Students are living increasingly busy lives. Between attempting to juggle multiple Advanced-Placement (AP) courses or participating in a wide array of extracurricular activities, sleep is often the first thing that falls through the cracks in many young, high-achieving lives.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, getting an optimal amount of sleep (around 9 ¼ hours for teenagers) is “as important to good health as eating well or exercising”.

Unfortunately, many young students average fewer than 7 hours per school night by the end of high school.

While lacking those extra two hours and fifteen minutes may seem trivial, sleep deprivation has a profound impact on critical thinking, reasoning, and even operating a car.

But how beneficial is pushing school start times back ten or twenty minutes? Some, such as Emily Ohanian, a freshman student at the Rockville campus, believes that the bell schedule is better off staying the way it currently is.

“Personally I am a morning person and like getting things over with”, states Ohanian. Even though she sees how it could potentially make a difference, she believes that “7:25 to 2:10 is very reasonable.”

In addition, since many after school activities start right after school ends, shifting bell schedules even the slightest bit could possibly interfere with the carefully-synchronized extra-curricular and/or job schedules that some students may have.

Dr. Joshua Starr, former superintendent of MCPS, proposed multiple options in regards to amending school start times.

One of these propositions was to start Elementary School first, therefore pushing back start times for sleep-deprived middle and high schoolers.

Another option was to have two separate start and end times for high-schools, one at the regular 7:25am and the other at 9:05am. Transportation would not be provided for the later high school start time.

While these possibilities sound appealing, implementation is difficult and would require extra funding.

Dr. Starr, as well as multiple other members of the Board of Education grappled with these options before finally settling on the current change.