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Group Asks Board for Later School Start Time

Pushing back the start of high school in Anne Arundel County until 8 a.m. at the earliest was the subject of a large contingent at Thursday night's budget hearing.

Parents, students and teachers pleaded with school board members Thursday night to consider pushing back school start times in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).

Dozens of audience members stood when called upon to show that they were all wearing black clothing.

"It's the color that represents the sky in early morning when our children are waiting for their bus," said Heather Macintosh, who handles publicity for the Start School Later group and works with the Annapolis Education Commission.

The public hearing was the second held this week to provide an opportunity for the community to comment on the superintendent's proposed $239 million capital budget for the coming year.

Pushing back the start of school is not among the superintendent's recommendations.

Christine Kovac, a sophomore at Broadneck High School, said students can't be expected to perform at their best when they've just rolled out of bed.

"I have to be at the top of my game at 7 a.m.," Kovac said.

Macintosh led the pack of Start School Later volunteers, saying they numbered 3,500 in a recent petition. The group wants to see new start times implemented for the next school year, she said.

"I have not found any research that says 7:17 a.m. is the optimum time to start high school," Macintosh said. "This schedule is out of sync with the sleep needs of and rhythms of adolescents and teens."

Lisa Rodvien, a social studies teacher at Annapolis High School, said she could improve academic achievement and keep teens safer in one fell swoop, if only school could start a little later. She noted that other school systems have implemented the policy change, such as those in Loudon and Arlington, VA, and remained successful.

Start School Later supporters said board members should take a close look at resolving any issues with transportation a new start time for high schools could create. In many instances, a staggered start schedule allows the same buses to be used to transport elementary, middle and high school students.

However, like other issues broached at the hearing, starting high school later was a one-sided conversation. The public was there to air their concerns with the school system's proposed budget, but board members do not respond or engage in conversation during or after the testimony.

A budget workshop with the school board is set for Jan. 22. The public is invited to attend, but testimony will not be taken. On Feb. 20, the board is set to vote on the full budget package, which will then be handed over to the county for review and approval in June.

W. L. January 13, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Oh My! Do you have any high school age children catching their bus at 6:15am? Coddling? Have you read any of the research? Parents will not let their teens stay up later. My grandson rises at 5:15am. After school activities and homework takes up the rest of his day and evening. He has hardly any free time. By the end of the week he is so tired and sleep deprived he is totally exhausted. He spends the majority of his weekend with homework. Coddled. Not likely. Depressed? Yes. Something has to change. Teen suicides are increasing in this county. I would say they are very accountable. Even businesses do not begin their day as early as the schools in this county. Let's start thinking about helping these kids rather than calling it coddling.
W. L. January 13, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Out teens are more important than logistic issues. This county spends more money on many" less" important issues. Our taxes are raised from all the pork-belly projects that we ask them NOT to spend money on. Let's get more put toward buses. Gambling was voted in, so let's get "more" money from that, as our Governor promised. What could be more important than our teens in this county. Gambling was certainly our Governor's primary concern, even to hold a costly special session for it. Why not our teens? They will be our future leaders. Logistics can be solved if our current "leaders" put their constructive actions behind their words. Of course more buses will have to be added. Years ago AACo schools all started at the same time. It can be done again.
Kari O January 13, 2013 at 04:52 PM
It's really important that Nacho Mama's points aren't discounted -- we live in the real world, and the logistics of implementing a change like this need to be faced head-on. I think everyone here at Start School Later, and the thousands of petition signers, would LOVE the opportunity to do just that -- by sitting down and having a constructive, creative and coherent conversation with AACPS administration. We've been asking for this for months and months, and are really looking forward to making it happen soon. Transportation software has advanced to the point where exploring the logistics of bus routing should no longer require days or weeks of pencil and paper calculations. So let's start figuring out various options and any associated costs (many districts have found no-cost options, or even realized savings!). As we learn more about the science of sleep, and as we see the clear benefits to health, safety, equity and achievement that are conferred by healthy start times, it becomes ever more clear: The time for change is now.
Natalie BP January 13, 2013 at 05:01 PM
It's not difficult to work logistics with all the brilliant minds and dedicated people working toward & for the health, education, and quality of life for all children and families and staff~ One just has to look at the big picture, all angles, and consider all as looking into the future. Sign the petition ~ share the petition ~
lorrie short January 13, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Spalding starts at 8am and they get out at 2:30, so why can't AACPS do the same

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