BOE approves proposal to delay start times 20 minutes

School clock.

By Trevor Lystad

After months of deliberation, the MCPS Board of Education has approved outgoing superintendent Joshua Starr’s recommendation to delay start times, effective the 2015-16 school year. Middle and high schools will start 20 minutes later, while elementary schools will start 10 minutes later.

The plan likely represents the last significant act by Starr, who will step down Feb. 16. He will be replaced by MCPS chief operating officer Larry A. Bowers.

The decision was made with the hope that students would be able to sleep an extra 20 minutes. Pushing start times back 20 minutes was one of a few options, including not making a change and pushing the start of school back an hour. The schedule change will not cost the county any additional money since they will not have to pay for any additional buses.

“This was the option that could give students more sleep while facing the fiscal realities of the county,” MCPS spokesperson Gboyinde Onijala said.

Unfortunately, many doubt that 20 minutes of extra sleep will help students at all.

“For most young people, what it means is more time to stay up,” assistant principal Jerome Easton said.

Some students mirrored Easton’s thoughts.

“I think it won’t be effective,” sophomore Landen Hawkins said, “because students will look at it as a way to hang out more, not a way to get extra sleep.”

With the new changes, the order of when schools start will be the same, with high schools starting first at 7:45. Elementary schools will be 10 minutes longer, ending at either 3:25 or 3:50.

Although the start time is only 20 minutes later, some are concerned for increased traffic later in the morning. APES teacher Kelly Garton predicts that traffic will be more congested if teachers are driving to schools 20 minutes later.

“For the teachers driving down from Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Germantown, 20 minutes will make a huge difference in the time it takes to get there,” Garton said.

This is the first time the county has changed start times in a long time, but the fact that the change is so short may mean the conversation is still ongoing.

“Although 20 minutes may not be ideal for extending sleep time for all high school students,” Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill said in an MCPS press release, “it is a move in the right direction.”