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Montgomery County Drops Plan For Later High School Morning Bell

The morning bell at Montgomery County high schools won't be changing anytime soon.
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The morning bell at Montgomery County high schools won't be changing anytime soon.

High schoolers in Montgomery County won't be getting any more sleep next year than they are now.

Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr announced today that he is recommending that high schools stick with their 7:25 a.m. morning bell and not implement a proposal to move them back by 50 minutes to 8:15 a.m.

In a press release, Starr said that the $20 million price tag and a lukewarm reception from the community moved him to scrap the proposal, which he had originally favored.

“I recommended we study changing bell times because I believe it is an important issue that deserves our attention. But after receiving the final cost estimates, along with mixed feedback from our community, I do not believe it is feasible or responsible to move forward with these changes at this time. However, we will continue to discuss and monitor this issue," he said.

Last October, Starr proposed making the change to high school bell times, saying that the early start times were denying teenagers the sleep that they need to perform well in school. The later morning bell would be facilitated by starting middle schools 10 minutes earlier — their bell currently rings at 7:55 a.m. — and extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes, to 3:35 p.m. or 4 p.m., depending on school.

But according to a report (.PDF) from Starr's office, while the idea of starting high schools later was supported by parents, reaction was split among students and staff. As for elementary schools, a majority of students and staff opposed extending their school day.

A survey of high school students found that while 85 percent said they would get more sleep and 70 percent said they would likely have more energy with a later start, almost half worried that they would not be able to participate in after-school activities, hold jobs or finish their homework.

The report also noted the potential expenses of changing school times. Starting the high school day later and the middle school day earlier would cost $21.9 million in increased transportation, staffing, and utility expenses. Extending the elementary school day would cost between $8 million and $47 million, depending on whether recess or academic offerings were made longer.

In his statement, Starr said that the school system could better spend the money on other needed resources. "Bell times are an important issue related to student success and well-being, but have to be viewed in the context of other priorities and needs the school system must consider,” he said.

“These needs include hiring more teachers, counselors, and school psychologists to meet the academic and social emotional needs of our students; expanding the use of technology in the classroom; reducing class sizes, especially in schools with the largest achievement gaps; and investing in other programs that will meet the individual needs of our students," he added.

Starr said that the school system will need $135 million in additional funding in 2016 to cover the loss of one-time funding.

Bell Times Report and Rec

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