POLL: Should Howard County Schools Start Later?

Parents petition Congress for schools to begin after 8 a.m.

"Saved by the bell" may be a common refrain among students, but parents and teachers are starting to ask if children should instead be saved from the bell.

The Start School Later Initiative, a petition encouraging lawmakers to start school no earlier than 8 a.m., was presented to members of Congress this week with nearly 5,000 signatures from all 50 states.

More than 1,000 of the signatures came from Maryland parents and educators. 

"The [petition] comments range from student pleas for a more humane schedule to educators wishing their students weren't still asleep to health professionals and researchers seriously concerned about the damage we're doing to kids' mental and physical health," said movement organizer Heather Macintosh.

What do you think—are Howard County school hours OK or is there room for change?

Gina March 19, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I think this is a great idea, the only downfall is late starts means late closings which would put our Elementary Schoolers getting home almost around 5pm which is rush hour. It's bad enough people don't look out for kids during the current times and now they would be getting off the buses or walking home when people are in a bigger rush and not paying attention.
Becky March 19, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Would we be switching so the elementary school kids who are definitely up that early would go in when the high school kids go now?
Kimberly Palmer March 19, 2012 at 05:42 PM
I don't know what time the middle schools and high schools dismiss. My son's elementary school starts at 9:15 and they dismiss at 3:55. I love this schedule.
near_starlet March 19, 2012 at 05:52 PM
In Georgia, the elementary schools start between 7:30-8:15; the middle schools start between 8-8:45, and the high schools between 8:30-9. It makes sense: the younger kids go to bed typically much earlier and are awake much earlier in the day than the older kids. I never understood the sequence up here, even though I'm a HoCo k-12 grad
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. March 19, 2012 at 06:24 PM
There are many ways to resolve this issue in any given school system, but the first step inevitably involves a will to change. For that to happen, communities first need to agree that starting high school in the 7 a.m. hour (or, according to most research, before about 8:30) is too dangerous & counterproductive to justify no matter what the perceived cost savings (in fact, by thinking out of the box, it's often possible to do this at no or low cost, or even save $). We often forget that until about 30 years ago few if any schools started so early and that the start times only gradually crept up as schools tried to save $ by recycling bus runs. If you're not convinced this isn't seriously hurting our kids & communities, check out www.StartSchoolLater.net and this recent forum at the Harvard School of Public Health: http://hvrd.me/FQ8Nvp. Change is hard, but once you read more about the impact of early start times on health, safety, learning, equity, and even economics, I think you'll agree that we've got to find a way for every child of every age to go to school at safe and healthy hours. Drawing the line at how early schools can open (just the way we already set limits for times lunch can be served) as our petition asks is one way that would make it easier for local schools to make this happen. If you agree, you can still sign and comment on the petition at http://bit.ly/tWa4dS.
Jack March 19, 2012 at 09:56 PM
The late start is for our high school children which means the elementary schools start first. There is a ton of research on the subject. This subject is also being discussed at the Columbia and Elkridge Patch. BOE member Vaillancourt has an interest in this. We also discussed this in depth at Howardpubliced. What I find interesting in this discussion is all the good involvement from young parents with children in ellementary school. For some reason the older our children get the less we involve ourselves in school which is bad because the hcpss preys on the unsuspecting with a lot of biased information and parents with years in the system are seperated from giving advice to younger parents on how the system works. I will give all of you some advice, 90% of our children go to college, it is on the hcpss website, What no one tells you is 50% of our children need extensive remedial education and the drop out rate in college is phenomenal. Only 35% of our children will ever graduate from college and the rest will enter adulthood with absolutely no job skills.
Maribel Ibrahim March 20, 2012 at 04:09 AM
Very interesting article and comments. It is very important to realize also that kids that go to school before 8:00am are either walking or waiting at bus stops in the dark, which is a safety issue. Teens especially, are hardwired to go to sleep later and wake later, so this early morning schedule just turns them into zombies. Also, there are many ways to skin a cat. School start times can be staggered, but they don't have to be. Bus routes can be consolidated or improved on a school level basis. The key here is that there are so many health and safety issues that have been ignored with regard to school start times. For more information and answers to common misconceptions about later school starts, visit: http://www.startschoollater.net/myths-and-misconceptions.html
Rand McNally March 20, 2012 at 08:37 PM
What the hell has Congress or the President got to do with any of this?! Schools are a LOCAL RESPONSIBILITY!
Jessica January 30, 2013 at 07:34 PM
I think HS should start later (our high schoolers sure do go to bed later no matter how much we try to get them to go to bed earlier) and Elementary schools should start earlier... Our elementary school kids go to bed earlier and get up earlier plus when they are getting out of school at 3:55 there is very little daylight left for them to get outside and play (which according to the obesity rate statistics, they desperately need). It makes a lot more sense to work with the natural way adolescent and children are programmed then to force an unnatural schedule on all involved.
Sara Weakley Kirkpatrick February 01, 2013 at 04:45 AM
I'd like to an even more "unconventional" approach to the high school schedule in particular. At that age, what good is it having them in essentially all day daycare? For those that do not want to pursue a purely academic route after they graduate, and aren't interested in traditional extra curricular activities, why not allow them to participate in a work-study program? Go to a job 1/2 day & take core requirement classes the other 1/2, with 2 groups a.m. jobs & p.m. jobs. Students interested in skilled trades could graduate with not only a diploma, but also with an apprentice certificate and be ready to move on as a journeyman.
Deb Jung February 01, 2013 at 04:21 PM
Sending high school kids to school for a classroom start of 7:25 a.m. is counterproductive to learning. Ask any high school teacher of a first or last period class about student attentiveness during those two times of the day, and s/he will tell how difficult it is for many of the students to stay awake. I have a high school aged student who goes to bed at 10:00 and she struggles to fall asleep at that time. Teens are not biologically wired to fall asleep at 9:30 or 10:00, arise at 6-6:30 and be at a desk ready to learn at 7:25 a.m. It is well past time to address this issue.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. February 05, 2013 at 01:29 PM
Howard County now has a petition to start school no earlier than 8 am (www.tinyurl.com/sslhoco) and its own chapter of Start School Later (http://www.startschoollater.net/md---howard-county.html ). If you're concerned about this issue, check them out!
Joanne Brazinski February 18, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Even if we don't flip the schedules--which would be a LOT of change--could we just start HS a little later? It might mean we can't reuse the same buses for the middle school run, but we could use those again for elementary school. That would give us a later start without turning everything upside down. Of course, it would probably cost more for the additional buses. Then we can keep after school sports in HS and keep elementary kids in school during most of the business day.
ruth February 24, 2013 at 02:43 PM
What will these high school kids do when they get to college and have early class schedules or when they get a job and have to get up early and often travel for an hour to get to work on time. Put on your big girl/boy panties and deal with it. Does anyone remember when students paid to ride a bus to school? Let's go back to those times and see how parents like that change. Also, if students drive cars to school charge them $50. a semester.
Joanne Brazinski February 24, 2013 at 05:04 PM
College classes don't necessarily start early--none start before 8 that I know of and 99% of my classes started at 9. In any case, teens are biologically different than young adults. They tend to sleep later because of the changes going on in their bodies--it's not just group laziness.


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