Community Input on Bell Times
By Patricia O’Neill
Superintendent Joshua P. Starr has provided the Board of Education with several options to consider for changing schools starting and ending times, often called bell times. These changes would allow high school students to start school later, something that has been the topic of conversation both locally and nationally.
As the Board considers this important decision, it is crucial that we hear from a broad, diverse cross-section of the community on the proposals. The Board will hold two public hearings on the bell times options on Thursday January 22, 2015, in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The first hearing will be held from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and the second will be held from 6:30 until 9:30 p.m. Members of the public can begin signing up to speak at these hearings on January 15 at 9 a.m. by calling the Board office at 301-279-3617. Each speaker will be given three minutes.
Those who cannot attend the hearings can still share their thoughts with us. Written feedback can be submitted by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We will need to receive all written feedback no later than February 2, 2015 in order for it to be a part of our deliberations. Learn more about providing your input on the Board’s Public Participation website.
All Board members are committed to the well-being of our students and there is certainly a growing body of research that demonstrates the health benefits of later start times. But we also must make sure we weigh any changes against the district’s other priorities, our fiscal challenges, and the needs of all students. That is why your input is so important in this process.
The annual costs of these bell times options ranges from virtually nothing to nearly $6 million. The costs of each proposal must be considered as we review these options, understanding that the county and the state are facing a significant budget shortfall at this time.
Ultimately, we know there is not one bell times solution that will make everyone happy. But we will take the options we’ve been provided and the feedback we receive and make the best possible decision, with the interests of all students foremost in our minds. I look forward to a robust discussion among our community members and my Board colleagues.