House Approves Studying Earlier School Start Times

Male high school student asleep in classA bill to study school start times has passed the House of Delegates.  Delegate Aruna Miller’s bill, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene – Study of Safe and Healthy School Hours for Maryland Public Schools, will now proceed to the Senate for consideration.

One county has already looked into changing school start times.  According to a recent Anne Arundel County study, establishing an 8:00 a.m. to approximately 4:00 p.m. window for all schools could create a need for additional buses and drivers costing from $5.2 million to $8.4 million. In general, according to the study,

Options requiring drastic changes to any schools’ start and end times would need to be discussed fully with the school administration and parents as part of the process. Many of the options would have significant budgetary implications requiring higher levels of funding commitments from the County Government.

HB 883 bill establishes a Task Force to Study Safe and Healthy School Hours for Maryland Public Schools to review the science on the sleep needs of children and adolescents, including the effects of sleep deprivation on academic performance and benefits of sufficient sleep.  The Task Force will review and study how other school systems have implemented alternative school day starting times and how various activities in those school systems were impacted and scheduled around the changes.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services,

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), sleep loss causes problems with memory and attention, complex thought, motor responses to stimuli, performance in school or on the job, and controlling emotions. NIH also indicates that the amount of sleep that an individual will need each day changes considerably over the course of a lifetime, and reports that the recommended amount of sleep for school-aged children is at least 10 hours per day and 9-10 hours a day for teenagers.

The task force must report its findings and recommendations regarding whether public schools should implement a starting time of no earlier than 8 a.m by December 31, 2014.  For more information, see the bill information page, and the bill text, or the fiscal note from the Department of Legislative Services.