A 15-member task force that has spent the last eight months studying the issue of school start times formally presented the Board of Education today with four options to consider, each of which would result in high school students beginning classes at least 30 minutes later than the current 7:17 a.m. first bell.
The task force –made up of parents, Anne Arundel County government and Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) representatives, and a high school student – examined relevant medical, social, and behavioral research regarding students, sleep, and school performance. It also considered logistical issues and work previously done in AACPS and other school districts of comparable size. Working with AACPS’ divisions of Transportation and Budget and Finance, the task force was also able to determine the financial impact of all four options.
All of the information considered by the task force as well as a full explanation of the options presented to the Board, the pros and cons of those options as determined by the task force, and the impacts associated with those options can be found online at www.aacpublicschools.org/aacps2/. Anyone wishing to provide input on the options or the report is encouraged to do so through a link on the top right of the website.
The start time options presented to the Board today are:
- Option A: Starting high school classes at 8:30 a.m., middle school classes at 9:30 a.m., and elementary school classes between 7:50 and 9:15 a.m. This option has an estimated annual increased cost of $8.9 million, largely due to the 124 additional school buses needed.
- Option B: Starting high school classes at 9:15 a.m., middle school classes between 8:20 and 8:30 a.m. (with a single middle school beginning at 9 a.m.), and elementary school classes between 7:40 and 9:15 a.m. This option has an estimated annual increased cost of $9.4 million, largely due to the 131 additional school buses needed.
- Option C: Shifting all schools to start times that are 30 minutes later than their current start times. This option has an estimated annual increased cost of $600,000, due to 10 additional buses needed to transport students to nonpublic special education facilities because of the later time window.
- Option D (Option C with a hybrid learning component): Shifting all schools to start times for all students that are 30 minutes later than their current start times with a late-start “hybrid” learning option for some high school students. These high school students would elect to engage in a blended learning (online mixed with face-to-face courses) program for part of their school day. This option has an estimated annual cost of $9.6 million if implemented county-wide, and $2.1 million if piloted at two high schools. In addition to the estimated annual increased cost for Option C, this option also requires the purchase of technology (software and hardware) and a second bus pickup for all eligible high school bus riders electing the “hybrid” learning option.
The Board is not obligated to pursue any of the options presented. However, President Stacy Korbelak said she expects the report, along with one from the state-created Task Force to Study Safe and Healthy School Hours for Maryland Public Schools due out in December to generate considerable further discussion about altering start times in Anne Arundel County.
“This task force has done an incredible amount of work and generated a report that is well thought out and offers the Board perhaps more information in a single document than it has ever had before,” Korbelak said. “There is no question that there will be many more discussions between the Board, school system staff, employee unions, parents, the County Council, and County Executive as well as more opportunities for broad input in the coming months as we examine this issue further and seek to do what is best for our students.”