October 22, 2013
MCPS will offer the community multiple opportunities over the next several months to provide feedback on proposed changes to school starting and ending times, also known as bell times. This will include four community forums, the first of which will be held on Monday, October 28, at Paint Branch High School. In addition to the forums, MCPS will conduct focus groups and surveys among its many stakeholders and provide a self-guided way for citizens to study the issue and offer input.
The forums will give attendees an opportunity to ask questions and share feedback on Superintendent Joshua P. Starr’s recommendation that MCPS consider moving high school start times 50 minutes later (from 7:25 a.m. to 8:15 a.m.); moving middle school start times 10 minutes earlier (from 7:55 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.); and keeping elementary school start times as they currently are (8:50 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.), but extending the school day by 30 minutes.
Dr. Starr released his recommendation on October 1 and based it on the findings of the 2013 Bell Times Work Group. He formed the group in December 2012 to comprehensively study the issue of bell times and the impact they have on students’ sleep habits, well-being and success.
The four community forums will take place on:
– Monday, October 28: Paint Branch High School, 14121 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville
– Monday, December 16: Richard Montgomery High School, 250 Richard Montgomery Dr. in Rockville
– Monday, January 6: Seneca Valley High School, 19401 Crystal Rock Dr. in Germantown
– Monday, February 10: Montgomery Blair High School, 51 University Blvd., East, in Silver Spring
All forums will be held from 7 p.m. –8:30 p.m. Free child care will be available for those aged 4 and older, and interpretation services will be provided.
Neighbor to Neighbor
Beginning in early November, the district will also gather input on the recommendation through the MCPS Neighbor to Neighbor campaign. Neighbor to Neighbor, first launched in 2012, gives members of the community the opportunity to participate in small-group discussions on important school system topics. The self-guided discussions can be hosted at schools, in people’s homes or at community gathering places.
The Neighbor to Neighbor website will provide a toolkit with resources for those who wish to host or participate. The toolkit will include step-by-step instructions for hosting an event; an overview video on the bell times recommendation; informative handouts that can be shared with attendees; and questions to guide the discussion. Each Neighbor to Neighbor discussion group will be asked to provide feedback to MCPS, which will be considered by Dr. Starr and the Board of Education as they make a final decision on bell times. Individuals, PTAs and community organizations are encouraged to begin planning their discussions now. The Neighbor to Neighbor bell times toolkit will be available on the MCPS website beginning Monday, Nov. 4.
MCPS outreach efforts on bell times also will include focus groups, surveys, staff meetings and a town hall event for students in the spring.
Once input has been gathered on the recommendation, and the full cost and operational impact have been determined, Dr. Starr and the Board of Education will make a final decision about bell times in the late spring. The earliest any changes to starting and ending times would take place is the 2015–2016 school year.
For more information, visit the Bell Times website.