Push to delay Anne Arundel County school start time gains momentum

There is some new momentum for parents hoping to move back the starting time for high schools in Anne Arundel County.

Right now the county’s high schools open at 7:17 a.m. -- the earliest of any county in the state.

“I generally wake up at 5:45 to give me just enough time to get there but if I sleep in for five minutes I could be pushing it,” said Amelia Avis, a junior at Annapolis High School.

She says she is OK for most of the day but, “at just 1 or 2 p.m. it kind of hits us and we go 'ugh' all my friends have felt that feeling.”

For the past several months a task force has been meeting to talk about ways to push back the starting time in Anne Arundel County's high schools. Amelia's mother, Heather Macintosh is on the task force.

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“We don't need to imagine anymore what might happen if we started school later than 7:17. We can look at districts that have made the change and see what happens,” she said.

In Anne Arundel County, the same busses that bring high school students to school are the same fleet that bus middle school students, followed by elementary school students.

So change will not be easy.

“It's a very complicated web and there are domino effects all over the place,” said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for the Anne Arundel County Public Schools.

That includes effects on school dismissal times, which would impact after school activities, and part-time jobs.

Mosier said adding more busses would have a big impact on the public schools system’s bottom line.

“If you just moved high school starting times until 8 o'clock, for example, which is something that's gotten a lot of attention -- that comes with an $8 million price tag” he said.

In the Washington D.C. area the Children's National Medical Center is working with Fairfax County schools, as its leaders discuss this week whether to start school later.

The hospital has also testified on the issue in Maryland. It has found that early high school start times are associated with poor academic performance, poor attendance and a higher rate of accidents and injuries.

“I think creativity and the willingness to solve this problem and the right tools to do it will be the key to making this happen,” Macintosh said.

The task force in Anne Arundel County will present its findings to the school board this Fall.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has also asked for a study on school start times across the state to be completed by the end of this year.

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