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Group Asks Board for Later School Start Time

Pushing back the start of high school in Anne Arundel County until 8 a.m. at the earliest was the subject of a large contingent at Thursday night's budget hearing.

Parents, students and teachers pleaded with school board members Thursday night to consider pushing back school start times in Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS).

Dozens of audience members stood when called upon to show that they were all wearing black clothing.

"It's the color that represents the sky in early morning when our children are waiting for their bus," said Heather Macintosh, who handles publicity for the Start School Later group and works with the Annapolis Education Commission.

The public hearing was the second held this week to provide an opportunity for the community to comment on the superintendent's proposed $239 million capital budget for the coming year.

Pushing back the start of school is not among the superintendent's recommendations.

Christine Kovac, a sophomore at Broadneck High School, said students can't be expected to perform at their best when they've just rolled out of bed.

"I have to be at the top of my game at 7 a.m.," Kovac said.

Macintosh led the pack of Start School Later volunteers, saying they numbered 3,500 in a recent petition. The group wants to see new start times implemented for the next school year, she said.

"I have not found any research that says 7:17 a.m. is the optimum time to start high school," Macintosh said. "This schedule is out of sync with the sleep needs of and rhythms of adolescents and teens."

Lisa Rodvien, a social studies teacher at Annapolis High School, said she could improve academic achievement and keep teens safer in one fell swoop, if only school could start a little later. She noted that other school systems have implemented the policy change, such as those in Loudon and Arlington, VA, and remained successful.

Start School Later supporters said board members should take a close look at resolving any issues with transportation a new start time for high schools could create. In many instances, a staggered start schedule allows the same buses to be used to transport elementary, middle and high school students.

However, like other issues broached at the hearing, starting high school later was a one-sided conversation. The public was there to air their concerns with the school system's proposed budget, but board members do not respond or engage in conversation during or after the testimony.

A budget workshop with the school board is set for Jan. 22. The public is invited to attend, but testimony will not be taken. On Feb. 20, the board is set to vote on the full budget package, which will then be handed over to the county for review and approval in June.

Katie Roe Brilhart January 11, 2013 at 06:56 PM
If schools start later, then the kids will just stay up later. If they need to be somewhere by 7am, then they need to learn to get the right amount of sleep, get up on time and be to where they need to be ON TIME. Stop coddling the kids, and make them responsible with some accountablity.
Janet Norman January 11, 2013 at 06:56 PM
How is our Board of Education "Closing the Achievement Gap" if middle class families are forced to drive their children to school in order for them to get 30 minutes more of sleep, while low-income high schoolers are stuck rising for a bus which leaves from 6:10 - 6:40 am? Professional development spending for teachers is wasted if they are dealing with catatonic students sleeping at their desks, or not showing up at all. Why not listen to the Brookings Institute, and get a 1:9 cost:benefit return on our spending on pushing back high school start times. Time to think a whole lot smarter and more creatively with our limited funds....
Janet Norman January 11, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Actually, Katie, the peer reviewed research from other school districts who have implemented this change has proven they do get more sleep, and are not just staying up later. Article fails to mention the testimony provided to AACPS board last night by Dr. Judith Owens, the head of Pediatric Sleep Research at Children's National Medical Center. She has the studies which conclude the later times provide more sleep, and sleep during the REM-sleep phases which are important to the brain.
Maribel Ibrahim January 11, 2013 at 07:21 PM
Many thanks to Heather and Anne Arundel County Chapter for getting involved at the local level to advocate for healthy school start times. I wanted to just also add that Heather is also the co-leader of the Anne Arundel County Chapter, so she serves two roles in a completely grassroots organization that is 100% volunteer led. We have 10 chapters nationwide getting involved at the local level and a national effort which includes a national petition and meetings with health agencies to continue to promote awareness of this critical issue. The position of Start School Later, Inc. is that the issue of ensuring that students can get their required 9 hours of sleep is not an optional issue of convenience or preference. This is a non-negotiable concern of health, which is just as important as nutrition and physical exercise to ensure that our students thrive. We are committed to being a collaborative partner to the community at large. Please visit our website, www.StartSchoolLater.net for more information. Heather and AACo Team, thank you sharing your hearts and taking time to share these concerns with the community and the Board of Education. Regards, Maribel C. Ibrahim Co-Founder, Start School Later, Inc.
Maribel Ibrahim January 11, 2013 at 07:23 PM
Katie, I just saw your post and wanted to let you know that the idea that students will just stay up later is an unsubstantiated myth. The reverse has been found to be true. Read more here: http://www.startschoollater.net/myths-and-misconceptions.html#answer4
Maribel Ibrahim January 11, 2013 at 07:38 PM
The Anne Arundel County petition is still open. You can view it and sign it here: http://www.aacstarttime.com/
Heather Macintosh January 11, 2013 at 09:03 PM
The petition is still open at www.aacstarttime.com - your opportunity to voice support and read up on the reasoning behind this request.
Natalie BP January 12, 2013 at 02:14 AM
When there is a choice to make change that promotes and increases health and security and education to benefit all ages, all families, all communities, all staff and volunteers involved ~ there is no negative ~ there is only a question of how and a decision to choose to start working toward a solution to lead toward this change. Thank you so much everyone for all you are doing and working on and toward for the benefit of all of us! I absolutely signed this petition and applaud your and everyones concern, deep understanding, and awareness!
Nacho Mama January 12, 2013 at 01:04 PM
This all sounds well and good, but no one wants to answer the question of which set of students, the elementary schoolers or the middle schoolers, who will then have to be rotated to the earlier times. The other question, then, if one presumes that all schools would start at the later time, is how much more money each parent is willing to spend as a taxpayer for the extra buses that would be necessary in order to transport all of the students simultaneously. There are serious logistical issues at play here and it's not addressed anywhere as to how they would be solved.
W. L. January 13, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Oh My! Do you have any high school age children catching their bus at 6:15am? Coddling? Have you read any of the research? Parents will not let their teens stay up later. My grandson rises at 5:15am. After school activities and homework takes up the rest of his day and evening. He has hardly any free time. By the end of the week he is so tired and sleep deprived he is totally exhausted. He spends the majority of his weekend with homework. Coddled. Not likely. Depressed? Yes. Something has to change. Teen suicides are increasing in this county. I would say they are very accountable. Even businesses do not begin their day as early as the schools in this county. Let's start thinking about helping these kids rather than calling it coddling.
W. L. January 13, 2013 at 04:09 PM
Out teens are more important than logistic issues. This county spends more money on many" less" important issues. Our taxes are raised from all the pork-belly projects that we ask them NOT to spend money on. Let's get more put toward buses. Gambling was voted in, so let's get "more" money from that, as our Governor promised. What could be more important than our teens in this county. Gambling was certainly our Governor's primary concern, even to hold a costly special session for it. Why not our teens? They will be our future leaders. Logistics can be solved if our current "leaders" put their constructive actions behind their words. Of course more buses will have to be added. Years ago AACo schools all started at the same time. It can be done again.
Kari O January 13, 2013 at 04:52 PM
It's really important that Nacho Mama's points aren't discounted -- we live in the real world, and the logistics of implementing a change like this need to be faced head-on. I think everyone here at Start School Later, and the thousands of petition signers, would LOVE the opportunity to do just that -- by sitting down and having a constructive, creative and coherent conversation with AACPS administration. We've been asking for this for months and months, and are really looking forward to making it happen soon. Transportation software has advanced to the point where exploring the logistics of bus routing should no longer require days or weeks of pencil and paper calculations. So let's start figuring out various options and any associated costs (many districts have found no-cost options, or even realized savings!). As we learn more about the science of sleep, and as we see the clear benefits to health, safety, equity and achievement that are conferred by healthy start times, it becomes ever more clear: The time for change is now.
Natalie BP January 13, 2013 at 05:01 PM
It's not difficult to work logistics with all the brilliant minds and dedicated people working toward & for the health, education, and quality of life for all children and families and staff~ One just has to look at the big picture, all angles, and consider all as looking into the future. Sign the petition ~ share the petition ~
lorrie short January 13, 2013 at 07:54 PM
Spalding starts at 8am and they get out at 2:30, so why can't AACPS do the same

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