There are few issues I care about more right now then the upcoming MCPS Bell Times vote. With a teen, pre-teen and 2 more down the line, I see first hand how this issue impacts their lives and mine every day. Then there's working at hight school...this morning I was working at Richard Montgomery and 3 students were asleep in second period, that was more than 10% of the class and these were smart kids; they just couldn't stay awake. Our teens are already so stressed and here we are with a solution that has a huge cost-benefit and yet it's not clear if our leaders will take real action. I feel so strongly I even faced up to my fear of public speaking and testified at the BOE hearings, and then found fame in the Washington Post.
How is that we are in one of the best school districts in the country, and yet 90% of high schools have start times later than us? How is that we live in an area with a huge concentration of advanced degrees and yet, we can't act on the science? Are we really that afraid of change? Are our elected officials that afraid of change?
The science is clear. The American Academy of Pediatrics made a strong recommendation for teens to start school no earlier than 830AM. Why? Oh yeah...there's good science to support the benefits.
Let's just take a look at some of the benefits (in the words of Mandi Mader, Later Start Times Advocate - not me - credit where credit is due)
When schools open at safe and healthy times the research shows:
• Dropout rates decrease.
• Teen depression & suicide attempts decrease.
• Academic performance improves.
• Teen traffic accidents decline.
• Participation in sports and extracurricular activities increases, or remains the same.
• Students are more alert and participate more in class (especially during first period).
• Tardiness decreases.
• Fewer days home sick.
• Family and peer relationships improve.
• School disciplinary actions decline.
• Less daytime sleepiness and falling asleep during class (or while doing homework). Homework will take less time when students are better rested! They will have better recall and will work more efficiently.
Many districts have decided to open later, and despite an initial fear of the change, sports, activities, teachers, and families have adjusted just fine. It can be done - without having any age child waiting at a bus stop in the dark, or costing too much. To read stories of how other systems have successfully tackled adolescent sleep deprivation, and to view the dozens and dozens of high quality research articles, please go to: startschoollater.net.
Okay, so what about the economic impact? Some members on the BOE and soon to be former Superintendent of MCPS seem to be looking only at "no cost" options. There's no such thing as a "no cost" option. Everything has a cost; the question is who's paying and how? The "no-cost" options are really a token measure that only offer headaches and financial burdens to parents of elementary school students while offering no real solutions for teens. You get what you pay for and in this scenario the ones who will really pay are low-income families. This option solves nothing.
So money talks right? The Brookings Institute just released a report analyzing the costs and benefits on this very issue. Guess that they found?
"We conservatively estimate that the ratio of benefits to costs is 9 to 1 for later school start times."
REALLY? Not good enough....oh yeah, they also found that later high school start times are the single most cost effective measure to help close the achievement gap. REALLY? Where else do you get that kind of return on investment? And still there's a question about taking REAL action???
In Montgomery County, it's worth my $38/student in tax payer money (yes the most expensive solution on the table only costs $38 per student, I didn't leave off a zero or two). $38/student for the Board of Education to implement a bell times change that improves the health, well being, safety, productivity, and academic performance of teens and that offers parents of Elementary school students a workable scenario. We need an option that sends Elementary first with no child getting on the bus in the dark.
The MCPS BOE will vote on the Bell Times issue on February 10th. Please don't be silent. We all need to raise our voices. Tell your board members that no cost options DO have a cost and DO NOT address the underlying issue of teen sleep deprivation.
Things you can do so your voice will be heard:
1) Write YOUR board member. We need the board representatives to be flooded with emails to their email accounts:
District 1 - Judy Docca, Judy_Docca@mcpsmd.org
District 2 - Rebecca Smondrowski, firstname.lastname@example.org
District 3 - Pat O’Neill, Patricia_O'Neill@mcpsmd.org
District 4 - Chris Barclay, Christopher_Barclay@mcpsmd.org
District 5 - Mike Durso, Michael_A_Durso@mcpsmd.org
If you don't which district you are in, follow this link and look for your public school: http://gis.mcpsmd.org/cipmasterpdfs/CIP16AppendixN.pdf
Ask your board member to vote for Elementary School first, starting at 7:45. Make it clear, in your own words:
- I elected you to represent me.
- I want you to spend our tax dollars on healthy start times.
- Please do what I elected you to do.
Be polite and respectful, but also strong. Emails must be sent by Monday, Feb. 9.
2) Attend the board meeting on Tuesday on Feb.10. We need to pack the room with supporters! Bring signs. Testimony will start at 9:30 am. Bell Times discussion will start at 10:30. 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville, Maryland 20850.
3) Bring your teenagers to the Sleep-in Rally on Feb. 9 at 3:30 pm - 5pm at MCPS headquarters, 850 Hungerford Drive. Bring blankets, sleeping bags, and signs. This event is organized by Save our Sleep in MCPS, a group of concerned parents supporting later start times. For more information, see their YouTube video at:http://youtu.be/HLFsZVYKwyM or find them on Facebook at Save our Sleep in MCPS.
4) Call the Board of Education between now and February 9 at (301) 279-3617. We are using Sign-Up Genius to ensure as many calls as possible. Our goal is 50 calls a day. Please click here: Let the MCPS BOE hear your voice!
5) Text, email and FB your friends asking them to support healthy bell times. Check out this video which explains the issue: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLFsZVYKwyM
6) Share this information with everyone you know!
We can do it! It's up to you....