The Howard County Board of Education recently affirmed that the HCPSS school day will begin no earlier than 8am for high school students. This policy will go into effect at the start of the 2018-2019 school year. The school calendar has also been released, and starting next year, the HCPSS school year will not start until after Labor Day, giving students a longer summer break, but less time in between. The Board stated that they wanted to take measures to protect “student achievement, engagement and well-being.”
According to the analysis released in explanation of the upcoming new start time, the Board claims to have considered many factors, including sleep, childcare, bus transportation, and extracurriculars. “Sleep is so hugely important for high school students,” Ms. Timmel, an English teacher at Atholton, said. “I think that we kind of overlook how much sleep high school students need as they are growing and learning.” However, she also believed that this could have a negative impact on students as well. “Many high school students need jobs after school, and so starting later diminishes that time available after school,” she said. Junior Olivia Henshaw-Black stated that “pushing school forward will help us maintain that natural sleep schedule that teenagers naturally have.” She did say that this would not affect the amount of hours of sleep that a student would get overall, but because a teenager will naturally go to bed later and wake up later, it could have a positive effect. Sophomore Christian Maric argued that the sleep schedules of high school students would not be affected, saying that “as a general matter high school students are irresponsible about when they get to sleep” and that “they would still be staying up late to do homework.” Caleigh Goodwin-Schoen, a junior, added that it would impact rehearsal times for those involved in theatre. She was curious as to how the new start time would affect students in regards to extracurricular activities in general.
Goodwin-Schoen also commented on the fact that school will now start after Labor Day, calling this new change “an unnecessary way of cramming all the school days together if we’re just going to have fewer breaks in between.” Ms. Timmel seemed worried about this as well. “I think that the new schedule will negatively impact a lot of students,” she said. “I think that while the idea of having a longer summer is very exciting to a lot of people, I think that the actual implications of that will be difficult for many students and families…I think that these changes to me seem a little bit in some ways almost like a publicity stunt in that it almost feels like parts of it are not fully thought through about how this is for people of lower means and people who need to work full time and who need to have their children in school.”
It seems as if many people are concerned about the possible negative effects of these changes, but at least they have an extra hour to sleep on it.