High school students in Montgomery County may get to sleep in a little longer if a recommendation by the county's superintendent is approved.
Superintendent Dr. Joshua P. Starr has recommended that the county's high schools start at 8:15 a.m. -- 50 minutes later than its current start time.
The recommendation follows a 10-month study by the 2013 Bell Times Work Group. Teens typically need between 8.5 and 9.5 hours of sleep each night. But the group found that thanks to 6 a.m. wake-up times, many students are not getting a sufficient amount sleep. While the effect sleep deprivation has on academic achievement is inconclusive, Starr says the health benefits are clear.
“I am making this recommendation because I believe it is in the best interests of our students. There is extensive research that demonstrates that adolescents are simply not getting enough sleep. This is a public health and safety issue,” Starr said.
Under Starr's recommendation, middle schools would start at 7:45 a.m. -- 10 minutes earlier than their current time while elementary school students would tack an extra 30 minutes to the end of their day leaving at 3:35 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Currently, Montgomery County elementary schools have the second shortest school day in the state.
The Bell Times Work Group will now work to determine what impact an extended school day would have on elementary school students. A series of public meetings, focus groups and surveys will then be held for public input.
"I believe this is an important issue. I know there will be a great deal of public discussion about this recommendation and that it is likely to generate a great deal of passion," Starr said.
The plan has a preliminary cost of $12 million a year. If the new start times are approved, students wouldn't see any changes until the 2015-2016 school year.
Montgomery County is not the only school district thinking about pushing back start times for high school students.
School officials in Fairfax County, Va., hired a team of sleep specialists at the beginning of the school year to help develop a plan to delay the start time for high schools. The school system is looking to move the high school start time to 8 a.m. or later. Nearly all county public schools currently start at 7:20 a.m.
In making their determination, the team will look at crash rates, depression and school performance.