Today, the Montgomery County Board of Education approved a change in school start times in a 5-to-3 vote, after a larger, costlier proposal switching elementary and high school start times failed. The change, known as “Option 1a,” moves the start and end times for middle and high schools back by 20 minutes. Under the plan, elementary schools will start 10 minutes later and end 20 minutes later. Despite extending the elementary school day by 10 minutes, the change is estimated to create no additional costs for the school system.
The early current start time for MCPS high schools has been debated intensely over the past year. After the Board of Education pushed for start times proposals that would cost under $10 million, Superintendent Joshua Starr presented five different options, including switching the start times for high schools and elementary schools and starting different high schools at different times. However, with the threat of some $25 million in cuts in state funding this year, Dr. Starr cautioned the Board of Education to only consider no-cost options.
Although surveys by the countywide teachers’ union, the Montgomery County Education Association, urged against a start times change, many parents have vocally pushed for high schools to start at 8 or 8:30am. At a hearing in later January, some parents called current start times “cruel.” On February 9, many parents and young students converged at MCPS central offices with pillows and sleeping bags to build momentum for the start times change.
Board members Patricia O’Neill, Phil Kauffman, Dahlia Huh, Rebecca Smondrowski, and Jill Ortman-Fouse voted for the change, while Christopher Barclay, Michael Durso, and Judith Docca voted against. “When are we going to talk about refashioning how we do school?” Barclay asked. “If I start school at 8 o’clock, 8:30, 8:50, or 9 o’clock but I’m as bored as the dickens in school, what difference did [the start time change] make?”
The changes to school start times will take effect beginning in the 2015-2016 school year.
Article by MoCo Student MCPS News staff