Advocate says Anne Arundel schools will still start too early

An op-ed in the Capital Gazette urges the Anne Arundel Board of Education and the County Council to ensure that there’s adequate funding for later school start times. Lisa VanBuskirk said that the school board’s decision to change the high school start time from 7:17 to 7:03 in the 2017-18 school year leaves the start time still too early. This option costs approximately $618,000, which was included in the FY2016 Operating Budget.

VanBuskirk is the chapter leader for Start School Later Anne Arundel County and Start School Later Maryland, volunteer organizations that seek safe and healthy school hours for all grade levels.

“An awful lot of lobbying and work for a 13-minute change?” the Gazette asked September 23, 2016. “Perhaps. But Wednesday’s decision by the county school board to move high school start times back to 7:30 a.m.–form the current preposterously early 7:17–is still a milestone.”

As of next school year — after task force reports, a County Council resolution and budget debates — the advocates for later start times will finally have something to show for their efforts. And it’s far easier to push the door open once you’ve got your foot through it.

Will Montgomery County revert to earlier school start times?

On January 10, the Montgomery County Board of Education will discuss concerns regarding the impact of bell times. The Washington Post reports that a teachers’ union in Montgomery County has asked the school board to revert to earlier school start times for elementary schools and return all schools to the schedules they had in 2014-15. The Post reports that the union that represents principals and administrators has made the same request.

In 2015 the high school start times were changes from 7:25 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. “Elementary schools, which open in two waves, now start at 9 a.m. or 9:25 a.m., 10 minutes later than before, and their dismissals come 20 minutes later, so the length of the school day has been extended,” the Post reports.

Many teachers say they notice that elementary school students, especially the youngest, grow tired as the afternoons wear on, said Valerie Coll, a teacher at Flora M. Singer Elementary. “They tucker out,” she said. “Not all students are able to develop the academic stamina.”

The Post reports that school board member Patricia O’Neill, 3rd District, does not back a return to earlier hours at high schools, but she would like to work toward a solution of later-scheduled elementary schools.

Eric Guerci, the student member of the school board, said that leaders of Montgomery’s countywide student government passed a resolution in December against returning to the bell times of the 2014-2015 school year. Although the current hours may not be perfect, he said, many see them as a benefit overall: “They’re seen as representing a positive change.”

Top high school has a late start time

Can the best high school in the country thank its 9:15 a.m. start time for its success? For the fifth year in a row, the School for the Talented and Gifted in Dallas has been ranked the top high school in the nation by U.S. News and World Report.

The rankings are based on a wealth of data, including graduation rates and student performance on state proficiency tests and advanced exams, as well as other relevant factors—like the percentage of economically disadvantaged students the schools serve,” Lisa L. Lewis reports. “But there’s one key metric that isn’t tracked despite having a proven impact on academic performance: school start times.”

Anne Arundel might decide to implement earlier high school start times

“Anne Arundel County Public Schools recently took an important step forward in an effort that dates to at least 1998 to change its high school start time, which at 7:17 a.m. is the earliest in Maryland and requires some students to be on buses before 5:30 a.m.”

Lisa VanBusKirk, the leader of Start School Later Anne Arundel County, MD, further explains in an op-ed in the Washington Post that the school board had voted to change the high school start times by this August. The Superintendent, George Arlotto supports changing the start times provided several conditions are met; however, his proposal is for the 2017-2018 school year.

Greenwich debates a later start time for high school

The Greenwich Free Press reports the history of the school start time debate in Greenwich, Connecticut. As recently as 1981, Greenwich High School started at 7:51 a.m. “And earlier, when GHS was in what is now Town Hall, the school day ran 9:00am til 3:00pm.”

When the Mianus Bridge on I95 collapsed in 1983, traffic was snarled for months, and GHS start time was pushed back earlier to get school started before the worse of rush hour traffic. The problem is the district never changed it back.

The Free Press reports that the first selectman, Peter Tesei, advocates later start times and he spoke at an August rally for the cause.

Valerie Erde, who opened a chapter of Start School Later, a national 501(C)3 has been a passionate advocate for changing start time. At the December Board of Ed meeting, again, a number of parents – many of them medical professionals – spoke passionately in favor of delayed start time. One after another, they urged the BOE to issue a mandate to the school start time committee, who they say are not unanimously in favor of the change.  The Superintendent demurred. He said it is healthy to have disagreement and discussion.

Re-Elect Pat Hynes

Pat M. Hynes’ recent experience as an elementary school teacher in a neighboring school district gives her a valuable perspective for considering alternative ways of administering the schools. She was elected as the Hunter Mill District representative on the Fairfax County School Board in 2011.

At the June 26, 2014, school board meeting to vote on full day Mondays for elementary schools, Hynes said, “Many parents have requested this for a long time. It’s been under consideration for years and it will allow us flexibility and control of our calendar which we have not had.”

“The promise and the challenge of this is to protect the teacher planning time and I think that’s the part of it that teachers have always worried about,” Hynes said. She concluded that Superintendent Karen Garza had not given her any reason to not have faith when she says we will get this done. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Janie Strauss

Jane K. Strauss has served as the Dranesville District representative on the Fairfax County School Board from June 1991 to 1993, and January 1996 to the present. She is in favor of expanding Head Start and the Virginia Preschool Initiative. She voted for full-day Mondays for the elementary schools and later high school start times. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Ted Velkoff, Ryan McElveen, and Ilryong Moon

Ted Velkoff, Ryan McElveen, and Ilryong Moon: The Tried and True Trio.

These three at-large members of the Fairfax County School Board have earned re-election this year. All three voted to provide full-day Mondays in the elementary schools and later start times for the high schools. In addition to their interest in education, the three school board members enjoy music and singing, so I call them the Tried and True Trio. [Read more…]

Re-Elect Elizabeth L. Schultz

Ever since starting her first term on the Fairfax County School Board in January 2012, Elizabeth Schultz has been an energetic and persistent advocate for reform of the elementary school schedule to provide full-day Mondays. She asked questions about whether Fairfax was actually meeting the Standards of Accreditation regarding the hours required in the school day and school year. At a work session on the budget held January 30, 2014, she said that she was profoundly grateful that Dan Parris, then the interim deputy superintendent, was working on possible changes to the elementary school schedule that would provide full-day Mondays.

When the school board voted on June 26, 2014, to end the policy of dismissing elementary school students 2 ½ hours early on Mondays, Schultz said, “I’m proud of this board for taking on the effort to solve something that apparently was an unsolvable mystery  for the last 40 years. “

Schultz, who represents Springfield District, also pushed for the successful effort to implement later high school start times. After she voiced her support of this change at the meeting on October 23, 2014, Schultz quoted Steve Jobs:

Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently, they’re not fond of the rules. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them, vilify them. The only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. They push the human race forward and while some may see them as a the crazy ones. We see genius because they are the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world. They’re the ones who do.

“He got the job done,” Schultz said, “and tonight I think we’re going to get the job done.”

Schultz graduated from James Madison University  (B.S. Political Science, B.S. History). She was a former Senior Manager of Contracts and Negotiation for EG&G and also a small business owner/consultant. She was a former Executive Board member of the Fairfax Education Coalition and Founding President of the Republican Women of Clifton. She served on the Southwestern Youth Association Executive Board for Lacrosse for six years.

Shultz, who is endorsed by the Republicans and Class Size Counts, is running unopposed.

Re-Elect Megan McLaughlin

Megan McLaughlin was elected as the Braddock District representative on the Fairfax County School Board in 2011 after spending several years as an advocate of several types of reform for the school system. She says that her most important role is to be the voice of our community.

When McLaughlin voted for full-day Mondays on June 26, 2014, she said, “I do believe as with later start times that this full-day Monday is a mission critical issue for our school system. There is a question about cost. This about about wants versus needs and I do believe this is a mission critical need, so the cost is a true priority for our budgets. It’s actually a non-negotiable cost in my mind.”

When the school board voted for later high school  start times on October 23, 2014, McLaughlin said, “I know this is a night to celebrate.”

McLaughlin graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and received a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland. She was previously a college admissions officer for Georgetown University and employment developer for Easter Seals Adult Day Habitation facility.

McLaughlin co-founded FAIRGRADE, leading a successful effort to change the grading scale in Fairfax County Public Schools. She was also a co-founder or the Fairfax Education Coalition, a volunteer instructor for Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court, a PTA president, Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform special adviser, 2003 Braddock School Bond representative, NVSL Swim team representative and board member for Rutherford Pool, and BRYC assistant soccer coach.

McLaughlin is endorsed by the Democrats, the Washington Post, the Fairfax Education Association, The Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, and Class Size Counts.