School Start Times Under Review for Howard County Schools

What is the relationship between start times and student well-being?

Teenagers need about nine hours of sleep per night, according to the Mayo Clinic. With Howard County high schools starting at 7:25 a.m., how likely is it that students are arriving to school well rested, healthy and prepared for the day ahead?

In a statement released this week, the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) announced it will be taking a “comprehensive look at the opening time of schools and the impact that an early opening has on the health and well-being of high school students." 

What do you think? Should high schools start later in the day to accommodate teenagers’ natural sleep cycles? Tell us in the comments.

It’s a topic that has been on the agendas of school boards from California to Wisconsin and throughout Maryland.

In Howard County, Superintendent Renee Foose said the topic emerged as a concern during forums she held last fall. 

For Howard County students, high school begins at 7:25 a.m. Middle school start times range from 7:40 a.m. to 8:25 a.m. and elementary school start times range from 8:15 a.m. to 9:25 a.m.

“Students and parents alike inquired about the continued rationale for starting high schools earliest and elementary schools later,” Foose said in the statement. “From a practical stand point, I heard that the high school start time is contributing to sleepy adolescents and the elementary start times often cause daycare issues for parents.” 

Foose said the study will also look at the impact of any potential schedule changes on collective bargaining agreements, after school activities, transportation, and the HCPSS operating budget.   

School Board Member Janet Siddiqui advocated for a study looking at the relationship between school start times, sleep habits and student achievement. “Students must come to school well-rested if they are going to be ready for learning,” she said in the statement. 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports “sleep-related education, research and advocacy,” according to its mission statement, students are “unable to maximize the learning opportunities afforded to them by the education system, since sleep deprivation impairs their ability to be alert, pay attention solve problems, cope with stress and retain information.”


- How Early is Too Early to Head to Class?

- POLL: Should Howard County Schools Start Later? 

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Leslie Kornreich January 30, 2013 at 06:42 PM
I am glad to see that HCPSS is evaluating the high school start time, but it should not be flipped with the elementary start time. No kid of any age should be waiting in the dark for his or her school bus. 7:25 is too early a start time for any of our kids, and transportation cannot be used as an excuse to find an appropriate school start time for all students. If more buses are required, more buses must be provided. This is not a revenue-neutral decision.
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.
Samantha January 31, 2013 at 11:56 AM
My elementary school kid does not get Up early and goes to bed at 9. No kid should be starting school that early! Howard county needs more school buses and then everyone can start school at a NORMAL decent hour.
Concerned Elkridgean January 31, 2013 at 12:25 PM
How old is this discussion? About 40+ years old... Studies have been done for years. Nothing has been done... Same old same old...
Sandra Conway January 31, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Not being from HC originally, i was thrilled that EES starts at 9:25!!! I wish ELMS started around 830 (be at bus stop around 8, not 730). I slept many 1st periods in high school, so i think a later time would be great.
BosoxBrent January 31, 2013 at 02:06 PM
We were all high school students at one point, so we know how high school students behave. The majority of them enjoy staying up late and sleeping late. Pushing the start time of high schools later in the morning won't help this behavior. The kids will just stay up even later since they don't have to get up as early anymore. Also, what about the kids who have jobs after school? Right now it is nice that high school kids can get to an after school job at 3pm in HoCo. Make the start time of high schools later and this eats into the amount of hours these can work after school. I know when I was in school, I needed as many hours as I could get from my after school job to pay for my car and save for college. This just eats into the available working time. I'm just not sure this is much of a benefit. With that said, as a parent, I would like to see the Elementary School kids go off to school earlier than 9am. Having a starting time that late is nuts. Maybe getting more buses is the way to go.
Dave A. January 31, 2013 at 03:38 PM
Leave it alone. If the HS kids need more rest they should go to bed earlier. Isn't that what we as adults do?
Phil Strong January 31, 2013 at 04:21 PM
It's way too early. Grown adults need much less sleep and they have a hard time operating on this schedule.
LF January 31, 2013 at 05:25 PM
High school students have lots of homework and work on collaborative projects. Juniors and seniors are also applying to colleges. Going to bed earlier isn't always possible, especially with extra curricular activities. No student should be standing in the dark, or going to school every day on 6 hours of sleep. I'm tired of decisions being made based on how many busses are available. There's money for other things when they want to find it. It's basic: put the students first!
Kim Dixon January 31, 2013 at 05:43 PM
I believe parents need to be parents and set bed times like 9:00pm or earlier so they can get the proper rest. I raised 5 kids and I know they like to stay up late and play on the computer and xbox . And if extra curricular activities are a problem maybe they need to scale back what they are doing.
Frank in Elkridge January 31, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Having the bus scheduling system determine the start of time of schools is not in the best interest of students and their families. Many households have both parents working, so having elementary school starting at 9:25 means that the kids go to childcare for an hour or two before school starts. Younger kids are usually up earlier than teenagers since they go to bed earlier. Why not send them to school at 8 or 8:30 since they are already up? I never understood why high school kids should have to be standing at the bus stop before 7 AM, especially on below-freezing, dark, mid-winter mornings. It seems that school bus scheduling takes precedence over the educational needs of the students. As for after-school activities, they aren't more important than students' education. Perhaps some of the after-school activities could be moved to before-school for the students who choose to go early. If start times are moved back to 9:30 for high school kids that would be possible. Teenagers who want to work after school can be allowed to leave early if they have already fulfilled enough graduation requirements and their grades are good.
Diane February 01, 2013 at 08:04 PM
I don't like seening the kids standing at the bus stops in the dark. But the high school kids need to understand how the real world works and this is part of growing up. You don't have a choose of hours with a job or college. I'm sure there are a lot of parents that wish they could choose their work hours or better yet not have to get up till the sun comes up. A parent can also warm up the car and take their kids up to the bus stop and wait till the bus comes, this is what I did back in 90's when my children were in high school. Bed at 10 pm. up at 6 am. 8 hours sleep. Let the kids grow up because its not easy when they are faced with these changes in the real world. We can't protect them from every little discomfort. Job and college will be a rude awakening anyway.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. February 06, 2013 at 02:42 PM
There's now a petition ( http://signon.org/sign/changing-howard-county?source=c.url&r_by=6963299 ) asking that all schools start at 8 a.m. or later. If you're concerned about the 7:25 a.m. high school start times, please check it out!
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