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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 be saved from the bell instead.

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 were 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?

sarah March 18, 2012 at 04:25 PM
I think it's a great idea that way kids can get a little more sleep, I remember when I was In school I was so tired during my first class I barley paid any attention.
Jack March 18, 2012 at 04:38 PM
This was discussed at Howardpubliced with many supporters including BOE member Vaillancourt
Elle March 18, 2012 at 04:48 PM
This is stupid. Parents should put their kids to bed earlier. If HS doesn't start until 8, what time will middle and elementary school start? Do you know elementary school already starts at 9:20? I'm in my 50's now and HS has been starting at 7:30 ever since I went. Why are we babying kids now? Is it because you're really worried about them "getting a little more sleep'? Or is it because you're thinking they'll be gone later in the day? If kids aren't going to bed at a decent time, an hour won't really matter. Give them a bedtime and stick to it!
Jack March 18, 2012 at 05:42 PM
It is biological, high school students do better with a latter start and there is a lot of research available.
Concerned Elkridgean March 18, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Its a great idea! This idea has been around for along time! Usually, teenagers don't get the proper sleep and it affects their performance because they need more sleep!
BosoxBrent March 18, 2012 at 06:59 PM
High school students are tired because they go to bed so late. I did it. We all did it. So why cater to them not wanting to go to bed at a reasonable hour? I still can't get over the fact that on my telework days, I see the elementary school bus roll by my house at 9am. So what time will it roll through if high school starts after 8am? 10am pickup for elementary school kids? How are parents with jobs supposed to get to work on time? I think a 9:20am start for elementary school is way too late anyways. This is one more step towards the raising of a generation of coddled kids.
Michael March 18, 2012 at 07:55 PM
When I was in HS ('58-'61), the school day was from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm and it seemed just about perfect. When my kids were in HS during the 80-'s and 90's, it seemed that school hours, teaching methods (remember open classrooms?), were constantly in a state of flux. Why are some people driven to fix things that aren't broke? Sometimes a better mousetrap isn't needed.
Elle March 18, 2012 at 08:24 PM
I thought of 1 more thing I wanted to say. If we're talking about high school kids, they won't be thinking...."Oh great, I get to sleep in and be more rested for school now!". Their real thoughts are going to be..... "YAY!! I get to stay up an hour later now since I don't have to be at school for another 1/2 hour!". Trust me. lol
Jack March 18, 2012 at 08:58 PM
The hcpss teaches to the test so a class which has material on the MSA or HSA is given priority in schedule. Algebra or should I say data analysis is not scheduled for split 4th period however Geometry which is not on the test is. I wiil almost gauarantee you any class which is on those tests is not scheduled for the first 2 periods.
Greg Schuckman March 19, 2012 at 12:54 AM
My sense is that the schedules should be flipped to a certain extent because research does show that adolescents need more rest than younger children. Since the availability of buses is most likely the greatest impediment to a later start time for HS students, could there be a 'blended' option with the students doing some of their classwork online in the morning and then in-class work in the afternoons? A 9-5 schedule would allow kids to work at home for a 2-3 hours and then be in class for 4-5 hours. There would still be time for extracurricular activities and for the student athletes, there could be some accommodations made to allow them to have their practices while also completing their classwork/homework -- perhaps through a modified schedule of some sort. Just a thought...
Kari O March 19, 2012 at 01:13 AM
It's great to see this discussion happening on the local level -- it mirrors a larger conversation happening nationwide. Science, and the experience of schools who have done it, show that adolescents learn better, are less likely to get in car crashes, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior when school start times are later. This is an effective intervention that can make a difference in many areas -- so lots of bang for the buck (and sometimes changing busing schedules can even save money!) Go to StartSchoolLater.net to learn more - lots of good stuff there.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. March 19, 2012 at 01:28 AM
You can also still read and sign the petition at http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139. Although we delivered the first 5,000 names on 3/7, new names and comments are automatically delivered as they come in. In addition, the MD-based group Start School Later will continue to hand deliver the petition different national leaders in a series of "Wake Up Wednesdays" throughout the Spring. Of course, the specifics of just when local schools start and end the day must ultimately be resolved on a local level, but our hope is that by enlisting the aid of state and national leaders we might find ways to jumpstart change - and ensure safe, healthy school hours for children of all ages.
xxx March 19, 2012 at 01:31 AM
It would have been nice if school started later when I was in high school.. but think about it. Alot of kids do after school sports or clubs or organizations or have jobs. If you pushed back the dismissal time then all of those things above would be later than they already are. And then after they're doing their after school activities they have homework. And some kids have to take care of their siblings after school. It wouldn't work out. I would recommend you take a poll with high school students and not the community because they're not the ones who have to deal with it, the students do.
Phyllis Payne March 19, 2012 at 02:40 AM
This works in some school districts that already start high schools after 8:00. There are many different ways to arrange the school schedules and share buses. Even districts with a 9 AM high school start times manage to have competitive sports programs for students. Athletes, like all of us, perform better with more sleep. Students with later high school start times DO sleep more because the school schedule is better aligned with their circadian rhythms. Study after study shows the same thing, so we don't have to speculate about what children this age would do. We know they sleep more because they typically fall asleep at about the same time (when their brains and bodies are prepared for sleep). It varies for every individual, but for children in this age group, it is typical for this to occur close to 11 p.m. Several different studies in different school districts and different parts of the world show similar patterns. It's time to use what we've learned -- to turn the science into policy and practice.
Anne Gonnella March 19, 2012 at 11:01 AM
This is like daylight saving time. It doesn't matter when we start, it matters that we can adjust our own schedules to get the sleep necessary. The more important thing to me would be to assign less homework so that kids can get the balance they need in life and still get to bed in time to get enough sleep.
sarah March 19, 2012 at 01:26 PM
that is very true, they amount of homework given out on some days is crazy kids have to stay up past 9 or 10 oclock some nights just to finish homework
Frank in Elkridge March 19, 2012 at 01:27 PM
I agree with Mr. Schuckman - the schedules should be "flipped". The High Schools should open later and the elementary schools open earlier. The younger children go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. Students who have a lot of extracurricular activities can do some of them before school starts if they are so motivated. <br> I remember having Calculus class at 8:00 AM when I was in high school. It was horrible scheduling. Had the class been later in the day, i would have done much better. All scientific research on this subject has shown that high school students do much better on a later opening schedule. <br> Scheduling problems for buses and after-school work or activities can all be worked out by all involved. Some young children are up for hours before elementary school starts at 9:20 AM. So why not send them to school early since they go to be early anyway. That way high school students can get more sleep, while those who do choose to get up early can finish some activities, even homework, before school starts. <br> The list of benefits is too long to mention here but I can think of many more positives to a change in hours.
Kim Dixon March 20, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Its whatever, parents need to establish bedtimes and stick with it so kids get the rest they need. And on the homework front I do believe kids have excessive homework these days, teachers need to lighten the load.
Jack March 20, 2012 at 04:25 AM
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 Ellicott City 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 elementary 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. After elementary our children tend to need us less or so they say and we tend to allow them more room. The mistake here is we allow the school system to fill our roll and make judgements for us. These young adults of ours need guidance and it still needs to come from our involvement not the school system. As they grow so must we as parents.
djp952 March 20, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Forgive me Jack, but other than your first post its unclear to me what point you are trying to make here. Are you seriously trying to tie college dropout rates with the time of day students begin school? That makes no sense and I'd like to understand where that opinion is coming from if possible. Back in the day I had to start HS 2 hours earlier (7 am) one year due to split sessions with the ES kids while the elementary school had asbestos removed and it was the best time we had. Our grades were all up from the earlier and shortened day, our sports teams did better than ever from the extra practice, and we had a very complete social life. Our little school got an award from New York State for our SAT scores (1510 here thank you) that has yet to be matched by that district. My parents had no more or less involvement with my schooling that year...we did it ourselves. I'm for the change since it worked great for me (combined with a shorter day) but I fail to see how your arguments make a case one way or the other here.
djp952 March 20, 2012 at 06:20 AM
Apologies I am against the change not for it, that statement in my last sentence was in error. I support *earlier* high school start times, I think it better prepares kids for college and post-college work life and provides more time for the extracurriculars and socialization outside of school.
Jack March 21, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Just a point, we need more parental involvement in the school's decison making process as our children enter middle and high school. Parental involvement needs to change from walking our children to school when they are younger to oversight of the system when they are older. Colleges have already tied the lack of Geometry and the teaching of Algebra/data analysis to lack of preperation for college level math and the drop out rate. In teaching to the test the hcpss gives priority in scheduling to courses with material on the state assessments. Prime time is given to a course with material on the test. This is done to elevate scores not educate your children. Things change and our personal experiences while insightful places our opinion in the minority. Parents should not accept based on their childhood experience any aspect of our children's education without question. There is a huge amount of research on the subject and everyone of us is privileged to be able to reseach it in an instant. There is a great perspective here coming from young parents. As an old parent I am simply saying these are your children and you have a right to participate in every aspect of their lives as well as a responsibility. Question everything and involve yourself in every minute.
djp952 March 21, 2012 at 04:37 AM
Agreed! I fear that overall the parents (not those commenting here of course) in this county, nay this COUNTRY are not nearly involved enough and are still willing to believe/accept that the system works. It's not the same out there as it was when we were kids. While I mentioned that I did very well on the "tests" of my day I completely agree that just teaching to these arbitrary exams (seemingly exclusively) is not working. I am 100% behind you on that. I do still disagree that later school start times would have any appreciable positive impact (and frankly am squarely in the other camp), but I think you've really gotten more to the core of the issue. The problem is what "we" are teaching not necessarily what time of day we are teaching it. That said I still happen to favor keeping the start time the same or perhaps even making it earlier, but again that is based solely on my personal experiences :). Thank you for expounding on your comments for me. It's nice to be able to discuss/argue/converse about things greater than just complaining about life on Ducketts Lane once in a while.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. March 21, 2012 at 11:13 AM
djp952, curious to know exactly what time high schools start (and end!) there? Here in Anne Arundel County all high schools start at 7:17 am and end at 2:05 pm. These are the earliest hours in Maryland, so I know yours must start somewhat later - but most high schools in MD and and around the country start in the 7 am hour, a practice that was started a few decades ago largely to save $ by recycling bus runs. Subsequently, accumulating (and now volumninous) evidence has shown that this practice is incompatible with the sleep needs of adolescents and is linked to a sobering number of physical, emotional, and school performance problems. These problems also seem affect disadvantaged children disproportionately. This is why the vast majority of health professionals, sleep scientists, and educators familiar with the research support going back to more traditional school hours, with the 8 am time requested in our petition (http://bit.ly/tWa4dS) only a barebones minimum we believe will make this more politically feasible for local schools. For more info on the research behind this thinking, please see www.StartSchoolLater.net.

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