School start and dismissal times have been a national debate for years. Here in Maryland, several counties have talked about changing start times. In Howard County, the debate was just heating up Wednesday at a community forum.
"Certainly we care about the health and wellness of all our students," Frank Eastham of Howard County Public Schools said.
Students, staff, parents and the community will all see a difference if bell times change.
"This is one of those issues that affects every citizen in our county not just students because of traffic because of before and after school activities," Eastham said.
School leaders said they are weighing both the pros and cons.
"It helps our older students with their sleep cycles. We also know there are fewer accidents with teenagers when school starts later. There are other considerations related to the high schools getting off last in the afternoon with after school activities, being able to pick up younger siblings at the elementary and middle schools," said Eastham.
There's four alternative models from the current start/dismissal times. In all of them middle and high schools start no earlier than 8:15 a.m. Elementary school start times would range from 7:30-8:15 a.m.
"I'm really worried about the start time change and having elementary kids getting up that much earlier that's a really big concern," said parent Karen Davis.
All schools would be in session 15 minutes longer each day, a total of 6 hours and 45 minutes.
"I purposely went part time two years ago so I can leave work early enough to pick up my kids so my husband and I haven't had to do before or after care," Davis said.
Wednesday's meeting was only the first of three public forums on the alternative start and dismissal times. Residents also have a chance to weigh in on an online survey. The board is expected to vote on this in February.