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Howard Board of Education Considers School Start and Dismissal Time Proposals

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The Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) School Start and Dismissal Time Committee (SSDT) presented four alternative models for school start and dismissal times in a report to the Howard County Board of Education at its Nov. 17 meeting.

The SSDT was established to gather input from a broad base of stakeholders regarding the possibility of adjusting the start and dismissal times of schools. A five-phase process for the analysis of school start and dismissal times was developed, including multiple opportunities for community feedback. The committee presented several options for consideration to the board in October 2015, and a revised proposal was presented in April 2016.

The new report presents four alternative models with middle and high school start times no earlier than 8:15 a.m. In each of the proposed models, elementary schools have the earliest start times, ranging from 7:30–8:15 a.m. All schools would have a six-hour, 45-minute student day, which represents an increase of 15 minutes for elementary schools.

All of the models are based on extensive consideration of the effects of school start times on student achievement, engagement and well-being. The committee’s analysis included research on the effect of sleep schedules on children and adolescents, school start times throughout Maryland jurisdictions and the potential impact of schedule changes on before- and after-school activities, athletics and child care.

The SSDT also considered transportation costs, time for completing homework, employee work schedules and other factors. Research shows that later school start times can benefit student well-being in terms of sleep time, alertness and other factors. However, research also shows that early start times have no impact, or a mix of positive and negative impact, on student achievement.

Parents, students, staff and community members are invited to provide feedback on the current and proposed models at the two remaining regional community forums, scheduled at 7–9 p.m. on Dec. 7 at Howard High School and Dec. 14 at Reservoir High School. A forum also was held on Nov. 30 at Marriotts Ridge High School.

Feedback may also be provided through Dec. 14 through an online feedback form.

Following an analysis of the stakeholder feedback, the SSDT will present recommendations at the Jan. 12, 2017, board meeting. A public hearing on school start and dismissal times is scheduled for the Feb. 7 board meeting, and the board will take action on Feb. 23. The decision will go into effect for the 2017–2018 school year.

Details on the model development process and the factors considered in proposing alternatives are provided at www.hcpss.org/schools/opening-and-closing-times/committee/model-overview. A comparison of the models is available at www.hcpss.org/schools/opening-and-closing-times/committee/comparison-overview.