WASHINGTON — The Howard County, Maryland, Board of Education voted Thursday to narrow the range of times that school days can start.
The board voted 6 to 2 to require that no school day starts before 8 a.m. or after 9:25 a.m. The change takes effect in the 2018-2019 school year.
High schools currently start at 7:25 a.m., and the day runs through 2:10 p.m. Middle school starting times range between 7:40 a.m. and 8:25 a.m., while elementary schools start between 8:35 and 9:25 a.m.
The time changes came as the result of a report by the School Start and Dismissal Time Committee in November, as well as feedback from community forums and an online survey of parents, students and staff earlier this month, the board said in a statement.
The committee considered the medical science on students’ sleep, as well as the effects on before- and after-school activities, “transportation costs, time for completing homework, employee work schedules and other factors,” the board said.
At Thursday’s meeting, video of which was posted online, board Chairwoman Cynthia Vaillancourt said that the move could cause complications, but that with redistricting, a new school and “a lot of moving parts” for the 2018-2019 school year, “It’s an ideal time to make dramatic changes, when we’re going to have dramatic changes anyway.”
Board member Sandra French, who along with Kirsten Coombs voted against the change, expressed frustration with the move to change the start times.
“We are in desperate shape financially … and this is going to cost … additional money,” she said. “Who is helping us financially? Who is going to our legislators and saying, ‘Pick up the tab?’ We need community support; we need petitioners to stop petitioning and to turn their efforts to lobbying another body that could fund us.”
Vaillancourt agreed that “we’re going to have to have some kind of brainstorming session.” Even so, she referred to the feedback the board had received, saying: “Parents do not want their students at school after 4, and they don’t want them at school before 8. We’re going to have to figure something out. And I think we’re all smart enough to do this.”
She added, “A lot of [people in the community] have turned their backs on contributing, because they have felt that their contributions haven’t been well received, and I hope we’ll be able to turn that around.”
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