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AACo schools plan to change start times

Posted: 11:21 PM, Feb 02, 2016
Updated: 2016-02-02 23:46:26-05

In Anne Arundel County, the morning bell rings in the districts high schools earlier then anywhere in the state.  Officials have a plan to shift school schedules to later in the day, and Tuesday night, the first of three community forums was held at North County High School.  School leaders reviewed the tentative plan, then let the nearly 70 people who came out sit and talk about it.

"I think we can make this proposal work for our kids, I really do," said Anne Arundel County Schools Superintendent, George Arlotto.

He admits the plan isn't perfect, but says pushing school start times back is actually healthier for the students.

"The science over the last ten or more years is telling us that our adolescents need more sleep, that's the bottom line."

A bottom line people in the county have been battling to fix for years.

"We have a very early start time in Anne Arundel County, it's seriously hurting our children's health and well being and it needs to change," said Dr. Terra Ziporyn Snider, the Executive Director of Start School Later.

The district set aside $8.1-million in its proposed budget to fund the change, and that still needs to be approved.
   
But not every household is on board.

"All the parents that I've been talking to in elementary school and my middle school, they are against it," said one woman.

Many say they want class times to stay how they are.

"I have no problem getting up at 5:45 a.m. and leaving at 2:05 p.m.," said Chesapeake High School Sophomore Jessica Friia.

Right now, the proposed shift would happen for the start of the 2017 school year.  It has high schools starting 73 minutes later at 8:30 a.m., middle schools being pushed back to beginning at 9:30 a.m. at the earliest, and elementary schools will open between 7:50 and 9:15 a.m.

"The student athletes will absolutely be impacted by this," said a teacher.

Many parents and teachers are concerned the later times will impact after school activities, family time, and child care.

"This is going to cost a lot of families a lot of dollars to take care of these kids," another woman said.

"I'm not quite sure where this extra sleep time is gonna then fall, because you are pushing the start times of extra curricular activities, dinner will be later, homework will be later," said mother Suzanne Turek.  "So I don't know where the extra sleep time is coming from."

"When schools change their start times there's always an adjustment period, it's always hard, but community life revolves around the school schedule and it will adjust, it's not the other way around," Ziporyn Snider said.

The district purchased new transportation software, and they hope when that's up and running in a few months they can make more changes to the plan.
   
If you missed Tuesday night's forum, another one is set for Thursday at South River High School, and the final one will be Monday at Old Mill High School.  Both run from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

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