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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." 

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. 

The study will be conducted by HCPSS staff, according to a spokesperson.

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.”

Ellicott City Patch readers last year had their say on the matter – some suggesting that a later start time would interfere with sports schedules, others or that staggering schedules might mean some schools let out close to rush hour. 

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


- How Early is Too Early to Head to Class?

- POLL: Should Howard County Schools Start Later? 

DawnP January 31, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Amen!! SO glad to hear that HCPSS is ready to take a serious look at this.
DawnP January 31, 2013 at 04:13 PM
I hope that Dr. SIddiqui is not suggesting that we need additional research on this issue, but rather that we should be taking a close look at the existing research. There's already plenty of evidence on this issue -- it's time to ACT on it, not do further studies.
NoPower February 02, 2013 at 10:57 AM
What kids need to do is to go to bed at a reasonable time just like we did when we were kids.
Amy Rottier February 05, 2013 at 05:14 AM
Part of the research has shown that, in general, kids *can't* fall asleep earlier, even given plenty of opportunity to do so - the change in their physiology/circadian rhythm does not permit it. So, adjust the school to their optimum mental focus time. There's a petition regarding this issue to show support: http://signon.org/s/9C44uT
Maribel Ibrahim February 06, 2013 at 04:29 AM
In only 1 day, the local Howard County petition has surpassed 100 signatures. These signers know that the science and research about the detrimental effects of early school start times speaks for itself. To view (and sign!) the petition, go here: http://tinyurl.com/sslhoco You can also read here to uncover the myths about later school start times: http://www.startschoollater.net/myths-and-misconceptions.html


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