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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." 

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.”

Related:

- How Early is Too Early to Head to Class?

- POLL: Should Howard County Schools Start Later? 

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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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