'Sleep In' Protest Set For Day Before MCPS Bell Times Vote


A group that's been pushing Montgomery County Public Schools to push back high school start times will hold a "sleep in protest" on Monday afternoon in front of the school system's Rockville headquarters. "High schools now start at 7:25 a.m., which parents and students behind the effort argue is unhealthy for kids. The video above, from the Save Our Sleep group, follows a high school student as he walks to a bus stop about an hour before sunrise. The group claims "only 9 percent of high schools in American start the day as early as MCPS," and links sleep deprivation to depression, obesity, migraines, reduced immune system function, more car accidents and diminished academic performance. The Board of Education on Tuesday will consider variations of five low-cost options for moving back start times and the option of making no changes. Some, such as the Superintendent Joshua Starr-recommended move to shift all school bell times back 20 minutes, are small and bring little if any additional cost. The Start School Later group called that recommendation "a sham." Not everyone agrees school start times should be moved back at all. The three unions that represent school staff are against any changes. The official opinions from SEIU Local 500, the Montgomery County Education Association and the Montgomery County Association of Administration and Principals are included in a detailed breakdown of public input gathered since the bell times options were presented. The MCEA said it surveyed county teachers and found that "teachers overwhelmingly oppose the proposed changes to bell time schedules" in part because "teachers do not believe that the proposed changes would improve academic achievement." Most of the input on the topic came from Bethesda, according to MCPS. Of the 402 pieces of input in which a location or school was identified, 124 referenced Bethesda, far outpacing the second highest total of 49 referencing Silver Spring. Thirty four pieces of input referenced Chevy Chase. MCPS said 64 percent of the 2,354 emails it received indicated a position on the bell times issue. Of the 1,204 emails that indicated a preference, 35.8 percent said the Board of Education should leave bell times unchanged, 18.4 percent said the Board should move all start times back by either 20 or 35 minutes and 17.2 percent said the Board should shift middle school and high school times back by 20 or 30 minutes while making a slightly longer elementary school day: Out of the 2,354 e-mails received, preliminary results reveal 1,494 (64 percent) messages that support the need to adjust school start times. However, not all messages agreed with the options presented. Many of the respondents suggested the need to move middle school and high school start times after 8:30 a.m. Of the e-mails received, 1,204 included a vote for at least one option. There were some individuals who rank-ordered their preferred options. In this instance, only the first choice is included. There also were some who mentioned multiple options equally; these votes are not included in the totals. However, many respondents indicated Option 1 or 1A, and given their similarities, a category was created to capture these indications of support. Out of 1,204 e-mails with preferences, 222 (18.4 percent) expressed support for Option 1, 98 (8.1 percent) for Option 1A, 164 (13.6 percent) for Option 1 or 1A, 207 (17.2 percent) for Option 2, 32 (2.6 percent) for Option 3, 22 (1.8 percent) for Option 4, and 432 (35.8 percent) for Option 5. The Board of Education is expected to take up the issue starting at 10:40 a.m. on Tuesday in Rockville. Video via Save Our Sleep

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