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Board of Education Approves Later School Start Times

February 10, 2015

The Montgomery County Board of Education voted Tuesday (Feb. 10, 2015) to change school starting and ending times in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) for the 2015-2016 school year—moving middle and high school start times 20 minutes later and elementary school start times 10 minutes later.

This change will not affect the order in which students go to school, but will lengthen the elementary school day by 10 minutes, making it 6 hours and 25 minutes. The additional 10 minutes will only be used for lunch or recess.

High school students will attend school from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and middle school students will attend school from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. Elementary schools that begin at 8:50 a.m. will now begin at 9 a.m. and will end at 3:25 p.m. (Tier 1). Elementary schools that begin at 9:15 a.m. will now begin at 9:25 a.m. and end at 3:50 p.m. (Tier 2).

“Although 20 minutes may not be ideal for extending sleep time for all high school students, it is a move in the right direction,” said Patricia B. O’Neill, president of the Board of Education. “We want to thank the community for sharing their thoughts and concerns with us and for being very engaged throughout this process.”

The change in bell times will have no impact on the district’s operating budget. Adjusting the start time for elementary schools by 10 minutes instead of 20 minutes shortens the length of the transportation window, which ultimately reduces costs by $1.3 million. No additional buses for general education or special education will be needed. The additional 10 minutes for the elementary school day will require the district to fund 37.7 additional lunch hour aide positions at a cost of $1.07 million, which is offset by cost savings resulting from the shortening of the transportation window.

“The Board of Education discussed and deliberated this issue a great deal and carefully weighed all of the options,” Mrs. O’Neill said. “In the end, I believe that we were able to balance the desire to start school later with the fiscal realities we are facing as a county.”

The change in bell times was approved on a 5-3 vote with Mrs. O’Neill and Board members Phil Kauffman, Jill Ortman-Fouse, Rebecca Smondrowski and Dahlia Huh voting in favor. Board members Christopher Barclay and Judy Docca and Vice President Michael Durso voted against changing bell times.

Background and Overview

Currently, the starting and ending times for MCPS are:

Level

Time

Length of Day

High School

7:25 a.m.–2:10 p.m.

6 hours, 45 minutes

Middle School

7:55 a.m.–2:40 p.m.

6 hours, 45 minutes

Elementary School Tier 1

8:50 a.m.–3:05 p.m.

6 hours, 15 minutes

Elementary School Tier 2

9:15 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

6 hours, 15 minutes

In 2013, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr created a Bell Times Work Group to study the possibility of shifting school starting and ending times, due to a growing body of research on the impact that early start times have on adolescents. The Work Group report was released in October 2013, and based on its findings, Dr. Starr put forward a recommendation to consider shifting high school start times 50 minutes later and middle schools 10 minutes earlier, while extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes with starting times unchanged. 

MCPS studied the full financial impact of this recommendation and gathered extensive feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including students, staff, parents, community members, and businesses.

In June 2014, Dr. Starr recommended that MCPS not move forward with the proposal, based on the significant annual cost—at least $21 million a year—and mixed community support. The Board of Education asked the superintendent to develop other options for changing bell times that would cost no more than $10 million a year. The Board was presented with five new options on January 6, with some options having different variations for consideration:

  • Option 1: Shift all start times 20 or 35 minutes later;
  • Option 1a: Shift all start times later. Middle and high schools would start 20 or 35 minutes later, while elementary school would start 10 or 25 minutes later;
  • Option 2: Start elementary school first;
  • Option 3: Modify Dr. Starr’s October 2013 recommendation;
  • Option 4: Split the high school day; and
  • Option 5: Make no changes to bell times and explore other options to provide flexibility for high school students.

The annual costs of the proposals ranged from zero to nearly $6 million. Superintendent Joshua P. Starr recommended that the Board only consider no-cost options, given concerns about fiscal challenges at the state and local level.

Upon release of the options on January 6, MCPS launched a significant effort to obtain community feedback on the proposed options. The district created materials to explain the options to the community and inform them how they could share their opinions with the Board. The materials, which were posted on the MCPS website, were translated into six languages and distributed to parents across the district.

The Board of Education held two public hearings on the options and received more than 2,000 emails. MCPS worked with stakeholder groups and community partners to gather feedback from a diverse group of MCPS parents, students, staff and community members. A detailed report on the feedback was provided to the Board on February 6.

For more information, visit the MCPS Bell Times web page.

Read the memo to the Board of Education

Read the Bell Times—Analysis of Additional Options report

View a summary of the options the Board considered

 

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