POLL: Should School Hours Be Changed to Start Later?

Montgomery County parents and teachers have signed on to a petition encouraging national lawmakers to set school hours to start later in the day.


"Saved by the bell" may be a common refrain among students in classrooms and hallways, but parents and teachers are starting to ask if children should be saved from the bell instead.

Montgomery County parents have signed on to the Start School Later Initiative  encouraging lawmakers to start school no earlier than 8 a.m., allowing kids more time for sleep and rest and teachers more time to prepare lessons.

Originating in Severna Park, MD, the petition was presented to members of congress yesterday, according to movement organizer Heather Macintosh, with nearly 5,000 signatures from all 50 states. Over 1,000 of those signatures were from parents and educators in Maryland.

"The [petition] comments range from student pleas for a more humane schedule, to educators wishing their students weren't still asleep, to health professionals and researchers seriously concerned about the damage we're doing to kids' mental and physical health," said movement organizer Heather Macintosh.

In Montgomery County petitioners had the following to say:

"My son will be a 9th grader in the upcoming school year. He and his grades will suffer greatly due to the unhealthy early start of high school," said Maria Lampos of Gaithersburg in the petition.

"With increasing demands on student teacher performance, restricting school start time to after 8 a.m. is the right thing to do. This would give everyone impacted a chance for better success," wrote Christine Zmuda of Potomac.

"The early start time of high school puts tremendous stress on parents as well as children. I have seen this both professionally as a psychologist and personally as a parent. I cannot wait for my younger son to be out of high school so I don't have to get up so early every morning either!" Lisa Meier of Bethesda wrote.

What do you think? Are school hours fine as they are or is there room for change?

Katie Griffith March 12, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Thanks for your comment, Mandi! Your suggestion for your son was very interesting. How do you think the school would have responded?
Mandi Mader March 12, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Katie - I feel it could go either way. Some of it would depend on how I handled myself - constructive and positive, or a demanding jerk. They might be afraid it would start a trend, and thus a lot of headaches for them. Generally, it would be considered tardy, but some administrators are more flexible and creative than others. I do know that for some of my depressed students, a later start time has been arranged. Why not be flexible BEFORE problems arise? I have been surprised at some of the creative suggestions counselors and administrators have come up with when we are all struggling to keep a student in school and succeeding. I generally feel that MCPS is open to creative suggestions, but of course a lot of it depends on who you are working with, and if you are working with the person who has the authority to make decisions. I like to think I am positve, patient, and constructive, but I can also be very persistant. Mandi Mader
Bea Fritsch March 14, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Without a doubt, a later start to schools is beneficial to everyone, most importantly to the kids. My children have attended school in several countries and they all had later starts (8:45am - 3:30pm). Kids were engaged and awake but still had time for after school activities and sports. Multiple studies have shown this is the best scenario for children - why can't Montgomery County see that?
Sandy Roberts March 14, 2012 at 08:30 PM
I have been told it is because of the bus schedules, so simply let the elementary schools take the high school bus schedule keep middle school as is and let high schools have the latest start! It should be roughly the same amount of students( and in turn same amount of buses needed) since they will all ultimately end up as high schoolers, right?
Bill Redmond March 14, 2012 at 09:36 PM
@Sandy - Although swapping the high school students and the elementary school students seems reasonable, you'll get a lot of pushback from elementary parents about having their kids at the bus stop at 6:30am (especially when it's still dark outside). @Beatriz - a later start would not be beneficial to working parents and that might be at work here. Some parents have wraparound daycare (before and after care) but others can't leave for work until the kids are on the bus.


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