Montgomery County Students Take School Start Time Concerns to Board of Education

It's an ongoing debate for Montgomery County Public Schools: Should that morning bell sound later, or not?

Many Montgomery high school students are in favor of starting school later, and they made that clear at a school board meeting Tuesday.

Holding signs that read "less sleeping in class, start school later" and "teens need sleep," several students wore pajamas to the meeting to show their support for later bell times in the morning.

"I want to make the point that I'm tired," said Tena Karpatkin. "I'm tired during the school year and I want to get more sleep."

Superintendent Joshua Starr, who originally supported pushing the start times back, explained Tuesday why he changed his mind on the proposal last week.

"Fifty percent of our high school students, the kids that are most affected, did not agree in changing the bell times," he said. "They did not think it was a good idea."

Starr added that the proposal to delay school times would cost at least $21 million, which the school system can't afford on top of additional expenseses already in the budget. He recommended the board reject the proposal.

The proposal would delay start times at high schools from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m., start middle schools 10 minutes earlier and extend the day for elementary school students by half an hour.

One student at the meeting, Camille Kirsch, said she had never fallen asleep in class before her freshman year of high school.

"There was one class where I was struggling not to fall asleep every single day," said Kirsch. "You just can't learn when you're working on five hours of sleep a day."

Another student Joshua Karpatkin, testified in front of the board that he often stays up well after midnight to finish homework.

"Balancing difficult AP classes, after school activities, which can take several hours for many people, it's just really hard for many of us to get enough sleep," he said.

Parent Katherine Desai said the bell times are fine the way they are.

"I think it's going to be hard on the high schoolers, but I think the way traffic is around here, it's going to be hard to change anything," she said.

Mandi Mader, a mother of two students, started a petition more than a year ago to change school start times. 

"The momentum is growing, and hopefully, the board of education will do the right thing and vote on this," said Mader. "We've had enough discussion, we want a vote."

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