On January 10th, (7 p.m. at Parham Building on Riva Road) residents from the local area will deliver a petition to Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Superintendent of Schools, AACPS, Mr. Andrew Pruski, President, AACPS BOE, and Other Members of the AACPS Board of Education.
The petition was created on the website SignOn.org and states, “We respectfully request that AACPS 1) establish a policy that no child of any age be required to be in class before 8 a.m. or on a bus before 7 a.m., and 2) take immediate steps to implement this policy in the next school year.”
Public high schools in Anne Arundel County, MD currently start at 7:17 a.m., the earliest time in Maryland and among the earliest in the nation. Bus pickups begin as early as 5:50 a.m. Both health and education research show, and real-life experience confirms, that starting school so early is incompatible with the mental and physical well-being of most adolescents and undermines learning and achievement.
The adolescent body clock is shifted, pushing the most important sleep into the early morning hours and making it difficult for most teenagers to fall asleep before 11 p.m. Current school hours mean that even teenagers who refrain from over-packed schedules and electronic distractions are not physiologically able to get anything close to the approximately 9 hours of sleep per night needed by their growing brains and bodies.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have linked sleep deprivation in teens to a host of physical and mental health problems, including an increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, obesity, substance abuse, and other risky behaviors. Later school start times are associated with markedly reduced car crash rates, improved moods, and lower rates of depression, absenteeism, tardiness, and dropouts. The improvements in student achievement associated with later school start times benefit disadvantaged children approximately twice as much.
Merely switching elementary and high school start times will not solve this problem because it will force our youngest children to go to school at unsafe hours as well–hence the 8 a.m. as a minimum opening class time and 7 a.m. as an earliest bus pick up time. These lower limits will ensure the physical and mental health and safety of children of all ages in public schools, while still allowing the possibility of starting high schools even later, as most research suggests they should.
The group feels it is time for Dr. Maxwell and the Board of Education to make the change. They are asking that school schedules be set with the health, safety, and academic achievement of our county’s students as top priorities. They are also asking the schools to join the larger health and educational community in recognizing sleep and school hours as public health and equity issues rather than negotiable budget items. Instead of citing obstacles to change, they ask that the schools mobilize all stakeholders to resolve this problem using transportation software and creative solutions to overcome past roadblocks. AACPS needs to be at the forefront of this issue, remain current on the research, and weigh this decision now so that a healthy school schedule for the next school year can be implemented.
To read and sign the petition go to: http://signon.org/sign/set-8-am-as-the-earliest
SignOn.org is a new online organizing platform, created by the non-profit organization MoveOn.org Civic Action, that allows individuals and organizations to run their own online campaigns.
For more information about Start School Later and the issues, please see www.startschoollater.net