The Anne Arundel County school board has scheduled a forum next month on changing the times that the county's high school students begin and end their school day.
The issue of pushing back the start time for high schools has been brought before the board several times in recent years by parents and educators, some of whom have noted research that teens need more sleep and are less alert in the early-morning hours. High schools now start at 7:17 a.m., earlier than elsewhere in the state, and the students end their day at 1:55 p.m.
But starting high school later could have an impact on middle and elementary schools, and some parents have told the school board that they don't want their middle-schoolers staying at school later. Some are in school until nearly 4 p.m.
Board members say they need community input before deciding what, if any, action to take. Besides the impact on teens' alertness, board members have said they need to consider the effects on after-school activities, the start and end times for middle and elementary schools and the costs associated with changes.
At the forum, scheduled for Dec. 14, four options will be discussed.
The first is to make no change to the schedules. The second is a "universal shift" - delaying the start time for all schools by an equal amount of time, say 15 or 30 minutes. A report from the school system's transportation division said there would be no additional cost for transportation, and this could be implemented next school year.
The third option would shift all high schools to a 9:45 a.m.-to-4:25 p.m. schedule. That schedule also would not incur additional transportation expenses, according to the report, and would minimally affect the schedules of other schools. Notably, it would allow the middle schools that end their days the latest to release their pupils earlier. This option also could be implemented by next school year, the report says.
The fourth option offers three alternatives but would have all schools opening and closing between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Two of the alternatives essentially would have high schools starting earlier, at 8 a.m. and closing at 2:40 p.m. and middle schools starting later. The third alternative has middle schools operating between 8 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., and high schools starting last, at 9:15 a.m. Under all three variations, elementary schools would open between the high schools and middle schools.
The county's 19 middle schools now start at different times, from 7:55 to 9:20 a.m. and dismiss between 2:25 and 3:40 p.m. The county's elementary schools start between 8 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. and close between 2:25 p.m. and 3:35 p.m.
If option three is chosen, depending on the details, it could cost between $2.4 million and $4.6 million more annually for additional school buses and drivers. Because of the need to request additional funds, this option could not be implemented until the 2007-2008 school year. Transportation expenses for the current school year are projected to be $34.2 million.
The public forum will be at 7 p.m. at North County High School, 10 E. First Ave., Glen Burnie. More information about the options being considered can be found at aacps.org.