Maryland Considers Studying Later School Start Times
Carroll County school officials considered school start times during a transportation study conducted in 2010.
A hearing on a bill that would establish a task force to study whether it’s a good idea to start public school days in Maryland later is scheduled for Friday.
The bill, HB 1462, comes as school districts across the state — including Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Montgomery counties — have studied or are in the midst of examining whether later or different school start times are a good idea, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Director of Transportation Services for Carroll County Public Schools Michael Hardesty said that school-day start times were discussed in Carroll County as the school system studied bus transporation efficiencies several years ago.
"There was a lot of feedback from parents when we conducted the transporation study suggesting we start high schools later if we could," Hardesty said. "The whole concept is to get the most out of a school bus that you can, the only way you can do that is to make multiple runs with the same bus."
If approved, the task force would, among other things, study the “effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance” and would examine other school systems that have enacted a later school day.
The task force would make a recommendation on whether public schools should start no earlier than 8 a.m., according to the proposed bill text.
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Hardesty said that in Carroll County and across the country, high schools typically begin the earliest followed by middle schools and then elementary schools. He said the staggered start allows buses to make multiple runs.
"Whatever we do we want to make the best use of the school bus especially in these bugetary times," Hardesty said. "We could not afford to have dedicated bus service for high school apart from elementary and middle schools. We’d have to have a whole separate set of buses to do that."
Hardesty said that when the school system considered start times during the transportation study, other issues arose with starting high school later in Carroll County.
High schools have a longer school day by about 20 minutes, according to Hardesty, which would mean many high school students would be getting home after 5 p.m. In addition, he said that many parents rely on their kids who are in high school to supervise their younger siblings after school.
Other issues Hardestly pointed to include high schoolers who have after school jobs, and issues that would arise with after-school high school athletic activities. And, Hardesty said, if elementary school kids started early so that high school kids could start later, many elementary school kids would be waiting at the bus stop in the morning in the dark.
Hardesty said he doesn't see anything wrong with HB 1462 as it is written because at this point it just calls for a task force to be established to study later school-day start times.
"They are just looking to change the starting time of any school to no earlier than 8 a.m. but again, it’s a bill that establishes a committee to look at the whole subject, I have no objections to that," Hardesty said.