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A Change is Coming: Good Parenting with Dr. Debbie

Dear Dr. Debbie,

I am surprised to see opposition to the long-awaited shift to an 8:30 am start time for high school in Anne Arundel County. I suffered through bleary-eyed mornings and brain fuzz for much of my time in high school and have been watching the issue closely as my own children have passed upward through the grades.

How can I help the naysayers get on board with the shift? 

So Ready


Dear S.R.,

I can’t say it any better than Bunmi Omisore, the student member of the school board in her 5-minute “Message to Students” www.aacps.org/2223schoolhours about the Why? How? and When? for this important change to how Anne Arundel County Public Schools will operate. Watch the video so you can share the message with anyone who is questioning the wisdom of letting teens get the sleep they need.

One approach to rallying the reluctant is to specifically address any concerns. Not wanting to change is not enough of a reason.

Child Care

With high school getting out later across the county, and elementary schools getting out earlier in some neighborhoods, families need to look beyond teen-age siblings and neighbors for after school child care. Some parents are able to work from home, so their children’s school hours are inconsequential. Others might split parenting duties between the one who can get the kids off in the morning, and the other who can meet them after school. Still others have worked out swapping before school times and after school times with nearby families.

Get help with lining up reliable, affordable, and enjoyable placements for your children so that you can focus on work when school is out for the day and you’re still at work. Ask around. Start with the parents of your children’s friends to see what they’ve planned for the coming school year. Maryland Family Network, a non-profit organization, operates LOCATE: Child Care to help families find care during the work day. Talk to a child care referral specialist by calling 877-261-0060 Monday through Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.

You can meet representatives from child care centers and family child care providers on Tuesday, June 21 from 7 to 8:30 pm at Old Mill High School (close to Route 97 in Millersville). Some elementary schools have programs right in the building. And there are centers that use vans to pick children up from school. A family child care provider might also provide car or van transportation, or she may live close enough to walk the children between the school and her home. Note, if she collects the children from their school bus stop, you’ll need to inform the Transportation Office of her address. 

The state of Maryland offers a scholarship program to help with childcare costs for economically challenged families.

After School Jobs, Sports, and Clubs for Teens

There are plenty of retail businesses, eateries, even veterinary clinics that operate into the evening, especially considering that many of their customers can’t get there until after 5 pm anyway. Weekend jobs are likewise plentiful if you know where to look. A teen who is ready to test out a specific career area should start asking around – friends, family members –  to get suggestions and introductions.  

Likewise, activities that used to occupy high school students after school – sports, band, clubs, etc. – will be still be available around the new schedule. Community-based activities with such offerings as arts classes, sports leagues, volunteer service, etc., will follow the schools’ time shift to fit in with the later times. One of the problems with the too early start times has been how they conflicted with evening activities, run by adults with 9 to 5 jobs, that kept the teens out too late on a school night. Now they’ll get the sleep they need to make the most of their waking hours.

Help Wanted

There are currently many job openings related to school children in general. The pandemic created a national bus driver shortage when 95% of U.S. schools operated remotely and many drivers found other work, then didn’t want to return. The shortage of crossing guards is a similar story. The child care field has been challenged to fill positions for many years and was massively impacted by the Stay-at-Home order, then restrictions on the number of children, and the ongoing risk to staff of contracting Covid-19 at work.

These job shortages exist regardless of school start times, but if they persist, will only add more challenges to the transition. Centers that provide after school care are struggling to rebuild their staff, and will need even more staff in the coming school year. There’s about a six-month process to starting a family child care business, but if this is something that appeals to you, there’s no better time to start the process than right now. You’ll begin with an orientation session to find out the requirements, including specifications about your home. Contact the regional office for child care in Anne Arundel County to learn more.

We still have months to plan ahead for the new start and dismissal times (You can find the projected hours for each school here.) Community support will certainly make this very important change easier on everyone.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum.  

Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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