Viraj Patwardhan
January 3, 2017
Staff Reporter


UPDATE 1/3/16: During the January 2nd PTA Council of Howard County (PTACHC) meeting, the following motion was approved: “PTACHC express support for continued discussion of new models for a healthy start time options, but the current 4 models that have been presented are unacceptable and therefore, we are supporting staying with the current start time,” according to the PTACHC website.

Every high school in the Howard County Public School System begins promptly at 7:25 a.m. each morning. Many students, parents, and community members believe that this current start time is far too early and wish high schools began later. For the current school year, the start time is unlikely to change. However, for the 2017-18 school year, there is a real possibility of a later start time. The county is considering four main models, ranging in cost and involving a variety of options for start times of elementary, middle, and high schools. The four possibilities of start times are shown below:

Model # 1
7:30 AM – 2:15 PM or 8:00 AM – 2:45 PM- Elementary
8:30 AM – 3:15 PM- High
9:15 AM – 4:00 PM- Middle, Cedar Lane, Homewood
Cost: $1,781,804

Model # 2
7:30 AM – 2:15 PM or 8:00 AM – 2:45 PM- Elementary
8:30 AM – 3:15 PM- Middle
9:15 AM – 4:00 PM- High, Cedar Lane, Homewood
Cost: $931,804

Model # 3
7:45 AM – 2:30 PM or 8:15 AM – 3:00 PM- Elementary
8:30 AM – 3:15 PM- Middle
9:15 AM – 4:00 PM- High, Cedar Lane, Homewood
Cost: $5,315,706

Model # 4
7:45 AM – 2:30 PM or 8:15 AM – 3:00 PM- Elementary
8:30 AM – 3:15 PM- High
9:15 AM – 4:00 PM- Middle, Cedar Lane, Homewood
Cost: $3,021,804

There are a variety of influences affecting the School Board’s decision: hours of sleep, child care costs, safety of students, and transportation. A variety of opinions, ranging from avid support to passionate opposition, span the county and even the nation.

Regarding sleep, it is clear that many students in high school are sleep deprived. Junior Jake Morales is in favor of Model 1. “It would be easier to pay attention in class if I wasn’t so tired from not getting enough sleep.” 2 years after Montgomery County voted to start the school day later, many parents have stated that the change at high schools has been better than expected.

Most people would assume that much of the student population would be in favor of the later start time, but what about the faculty? One avid supporter of Model 1 is English teacher Ms. Lucente. “I actually did summer school for a couple years, and we had an 8 o’clock start time and even that half hour made a huge difference. It just seemed like a much more reasonable time to wake up.”

However, with a later start time extra-curricular schedules will most likely be disrupted. Counselor Ms. Clearfield is in favor of maintaining the current schedule. “I would prefer that the school times remain unchanged because I worry about students not being able to participate in sports and after school jobs. A lot of students in elementary school use high school students to babysit them after school.” Elementary schoolers in Montgomery County are not adjusting well to the later start. Many teachers believe that the students are becoming tired later in the day, and it is messing with extracurriculars as well. It is clear that even with a later start times, problems are still arising.

Additionally, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman, spoke about the topic. Overall he addressed both sides of the issue but thought that it will be difficult for the county to successfully implement any of the plans. “I’m not sure how we’re going to make it work. The best thing, of course, would be to have them all go [to school] late. But we can’t afford the transportation.”

Like Kittleman said, buses are the largest obstacle facing these new start time plans, determining the plan’s cost. “We can’t have buses for everybody. We got to have a staggered bus schedule,” said Mr.  Kittleman.

For a model to be successfully implemented, many obstacles that will have to be overcome. However, the future of start times may spark a new awakening in thousands of high schools students.

For a more in depth break down of the possible models, check out:
http://www.hcpss.org/schools/opening-and-closing-times/committee/comparison-overview/

Posted by Viraj Patwardhan