Howard County Approves New Policy: No School to Start Before 8 AM

Students can breathe a sigh of relief. As of the 2018-2019 school year, no Howard County Public School will start before 8:00 AM.

Freshman Zion Olibris is looking forward to the change because of the effect it would have on his sleep. “I get up at 6:15 now, but with the change I would get up at 7:30, so that would help the amount of sleep I get,” said Olibris. “I come to school tired and fall asleep during class and this would help me not do that.”

The main reason for this change is the concern over students’ health. Members of the Board of Education feared that students’ lack of sleep was causing a decrease in their academic performance.

When this concern first appeared, former Superintendent Dr. Renee Foose created a School Start and Dismissal Times Committee (SSDT) with the intention of finding a way to improve student performance.

The committee published a report in 2013 that concluded, “Given their need to wake later, researchers have found that teenagers are more alert and able to learn… according to the National Science Foundation, when they have had at least 8-9 hours of sleep.”

The board continued to research this topic and in a report issued in 2014 they noted that, “Important functions such as abstract thinking, attention, and working memory are positively impacted by student alertness and readiness for school, which may be correlated with adequate sleep.”

Language teacher Ms. Shin teaches first period and favors the change of school starting later because of the effect it could have on attendance. “I think it’ll really help with students because many are late all the time,” said Shin.

While this may be true for some, GT Research teacher Ms. Dixon presents a different problem that could arise. “We already have tardy issues. If my kids went to the school where they were districted, I would have left before they caught the bus,” said Dixon. “If there is no parent at home, what is stopping students from rolling over and hitting snooze?”

In April 2016, the Howard County Board passed a motion that directed staff to look into options where schools started at later times. Four different models were presented that included the start times and additional cost required to make each change.

Wilde Lake’s Howard County Education Association representative Ms. Midgley shared HCEA’s concerns. “We’re concerned with teachers who have schedule issues and have to find childcare for kids before and after school,” said Midgley.

Many outside groups use Howard County school’s facilities. “If we open later, events are pushed later to accommodate the school’s schedule,” said Dixon. “What will that do the income the county gets from outside groups using our facilities? Will that be cost effective for everyone?”

Athletic Director Mr. Rau considered the effect that the change would have on sports schedules. “The later we start, the later kids will have to practice,” said Rau. “With the current schedule, most practices will be over in time for kids to get home for dinner. However, the change would push competitions and practices back more.”

By putting out a survey to parents, students, and members of the school community to voice their opinions, the board attempted to receive as much feedback from the public as possible. Additionally, two members of the Howard County School Start and Dismissal Times Committee (SSDT) answered questions from citizens in an online Q&A session.

After discussing the feedback gained, the board voted to have no school start before 8:00 AM. As a result of this decision, schools will be ending at later times in order to keep the length of the school day relatively constant. Neither the specific start nor dismissal times have yet to be determined.