December 17, 2017

Priority Issue: School Start Times

 

Health Benefits of Later Start-Time for Schools Studied – "Orange" School System Certification Bill Fails to Pass

Consistent with MABE's strong support for local board governance of school calendar and scheduling matters, MABE opposed legislation (House Bill 1081) and lobbied for the protection of local board discretion to determine school and school system start-times, without the imposition of a state standard or certification (MABE Testimony). House Bill 1081, while not mandating new parameters or changes to elementary and secondary school start times, would have mandated the adoption of state criteria and a state certification program for school systems meeting those criteria. In this way, the bill would have established a state program for the purpose of promoting a major shift in a policy area appropriately in the purview of each local board of education. 

Legislation enacted in 2014 requires the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to "Study of Safe and Healthy School Hours for Maryland Public Schools (House Bill 883/ Senate Bill 14). This bill requires the Office of Public Health Services (OPHS) in the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to conduct a study of safe and healthy school hours for Maryland public schools. In conducting the study, OPHS must review the science on the sleep needs of children and adolescents, including the effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance and benefits of sufficient sleep; review and study how other school systems have implemented alternative school day starting times and how various activities in those school systems were impacted and scheduled around the changes; and make recommendations regarding whether public schools should implement a starting time of no earlier than 8:00 a.m. OPHS must consult with specified entities and individuals and report its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the General Assembly by December 31, 2014.

On September 10, 2014 MSDE convened a meeting of education stakeholders to receive an overview of the legislation, presentation by MABE on State/Local Board Authority, and share perspectives. To learn more, materials distributed and discussed during the meeting include:

Agenda; the Anne Arundel County Public Schools Transportation Division's School Hours Study (2013); the Montgomery County Public Schools Report of the 2013 Bell Times Workgroup (Sept. 2013); a more recent report from Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr (June 17, 2014);  the relevant Maryland statute and COMAR regulations; the 2013-2014 Statewide School Hour Survey; and a Press Release for the American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement recommending the delay of middle and high school start-times until 8:30 a.m. or later.

Attendees representing local boards, superintendents, educators and principals uniformly recommended maintaining and preserving  local discretion in establishing school start-times. The student representing the Maryland Association of Student Councils, however, recommended adopting a new statewide policy in favor of a later start-time.

For more information, contact John R. Woolums, Esq., MABE's Director of Governmental Relations, at jwoolums@mabe.org or 410-841-5414.