In the next academic year, high school students in Anne Arundel County will start school an hour later, at 8:30 a.m., as officials make a long-awaited change that is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
A schedule of school start times will be published this week with high schools starting at 8:30 a.m., middle schools starting at 9:15 a.m. and elementary schools starting between 8 and 8:30 a.m., Anne Arundel County Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Alex Szachnowicz told the Board of Education on Wednesday.
Changing the 7:30 a.m. start time for high school students in Anne Arundel County Public Schools has been discussed for years, with advocates from groups like Start Schools Later Inc. promoting the advantages for younger students, who are active in the mornings, and older students.
A poll of Americans conducted by the National Sleep Foundation found that only one out of four teens is getting between eight and 10 hours of sleep, the amount recommended for that age.
In addition, early education centers will start at 9 a.m., and the Phoenix Academy and Mary Moss Academy will start at 9:15 a.m. with the change.
The system could be the first in the state to meet the requirements of the Orange Ribbon for Healthy School Hours act, which was signed into law in 2016. The law provides an orange ribbon certification to school systems which start elementary schools no earlier than 8 a.m. and high schools no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
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It also factors in the time it takes to travel to school, requiring that no student board a bus earlier than 7 a.m. at the elementary level and 7:30 a.m. at the high school level.
Szachnowicz said Wednesday that the system is still preparing bus routes and pick-up/drop-off times. He said as officials try to reduce the cost of student transportation by finding missed efficiencies, bus stops may be combined more often. Rather than door-to-door service, there could be neighborhood stops that students will walk to, he said.
The orange ribbon certification requires at least two televised public forums about the necessity of the change. Szachnowicz said the system is working to schedule virtual forums in each of the councilmanic districts to discuss the change in start times and answer questions families may have.
Superintendent George Arlotto said transportation officials and a contractor, Prismatic Services Inc., used parameters set by the board to establish the new times.
“It makes Anne Arundel County, without a doubt, a leader in the state for making this change,” District 4 board member Melissa Ellis said.
Now that the school system is moving forward with the change, it has an opportunity to be a leader in informing the community about the necessity of school start times that allow teens to get enough sleep, Lisa VanBuskirk of the Anne Arundel chapter of Start Schools Later told the board during public comment Wednesday.
“I hope that AACPS will avail itself of the wealth of resources and opportunities to create an example for the rest of the state of what first-class community outreach looks like,” VanBuskirk said.