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Forums planned on proposal to shift school start times

Anne Arundel County Public Schools will hold four community forums on the initiative to shift school start times in the 2017-18 school year.sleepy teen2

The forums will provide information and solicit feedback regarding the proposal to shift school start and dismissal times – pending full funding and broad community support.

All forums are open to the public, but will be held in locations to make them more convenient to those in all areas of the county as indicated below. Forums will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, Jan. 27, at Broadneck High School (Annapolis, Broadneck, and Severna Park clusters) CANCELLED DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER.
  • Tuesday, Feb. 2, at North County High School (Chesapeake, North County, and Northeast clusters)
  • Thursday, Feb. 4, at South River High School (Arundel, South River and Southern clusters)
  • Monday, Feb. 8, at Old Mill High School (Glen Burnie, Meade, and Old Mill clusters)

Spanish interpreters will be available at the Jan. 27 forum at Broadneck High School.

In his Fiscal Year 2017 budget recommendation to the Board of Education, Superintendent George Arlotto included $8.1 million to fund the shift beginning in August 2017. The funding would be combined with the $602,000 allocated by the County Council this year to enact a plan that would see high schools start at 8:30 a.m., middle schools begin no earlier than 9:30 a.m., and elementary schools open between 7:50 and 9:15 a.m. No school would dismiss later than 4:15 p.m.

The proposed plan has some elementary schools shifting their opening and closing times by as much as 90 minutes from their current schedule while others change by only 5 minutes. Click here to see the proposed start and finish times for each county school.

Concerns with the plan

The Start School Later Anne Arundel County group that initially lobbied for the change is not pleased with the proposal.

“While Start School Later Anne Arundel County is pleased that Anne Arundel County Public School’s proposed bell schedule provides safe, healthy and academically appropriate school start times for high school students, we are concerned about significant schedule changes proposed for many elementary and middle school students and the manner in which they are being proposed,” the group stated in a press release.

The group is concerned with the magnitude of some of the elementary school shifts; the uniform opening time for middle schools and the fact that there is only one option for parents to consider.

“SSLAACo is also concerned that both the design and presentation of the schedule is a recipe for dividing the community, many of whom will have no idea why they are being suddenly asked to change their lives,” the released stated.

Purpose of the forums

The forums are not public hearings, according to a release from the school system. Those attending will be able to hear a presentation of the thought process behind the development of the plan and gain a better understanding of how the plan will work if funded and implemented. There will also be an opportunity to exchange ideas in small-group discussions.

Shifting school hours in August 2017 provides time for funding to be in place to allow the necessary additional buses to be acquired by contractors and additional drivers and aides to be trained. In his budget address to the Board, Arlotto emphasized that the funding to shift school hours must be in place before any changes would occur and urged the county executive and county council not to take it from other areas of the board’s budget.

“If we as a county are truly serious about moving forward as a school system and about adjusting school hours, we must commit to providing the funding to do so and not do it at the expense of our people or our programs,” Arlotto said.

Click here for details of Arlotto’s proposal regarding start and dismissal times, a complete list of tentatively proposed school hours for 2017-2018, and a section for public comment.

Click here for a column on the science behind shifting school start times.

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