The Countywide Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), charged by AACPS with outreach to all school clusters on this issue, came back with a report reiterating its long held support for a later school start time. The response from the latest survey of school clusters throughout the county was overwhelmingly in favor of this change. The CAC asked AACPS to investigate implementation, taking into account the budgetary and scheduling issues that will be involved.
Two members of the Anne Arundel County group Start School Later spoke to AACPS School Board on Wednesday, June 5, echoing previous testimony about the negative health and safety impacts of the current 7:17 am start time. With bus pick-ups in the county as early as 5:50 am, county students find themselves battling sleep deprivation specifically caused by the school schedule.
Kari Oakes, PA-C, highlighted research from Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warning that 70% of high school students don’t get enough sleep and 40% are barely getting 6 hours per night. The recommended sleep for teenagers is 8 – 9.25 hours for optimal health and learning. Ms. Oakes asked, “Do we want our children to just barely survive, or can we help them to thrive during their school years?” She asked for support for healthy sleep and school hours from the Board of Education, citing public schools’ long tradition of providing nutritionally balanced meals and opportunities for physical activity, and reiterating that sleep is the third pillar of public health, along with nutrition and exercise.
Heather Macintosh, Co-leader of the Anne Arundel County Chapter with Ms. Oakes, outlined the broad support for this change among community members including the CAC. She urged AACPS to take action.
The Annapolis Education Commission, in its June 3 meeting, also urged AACPS to implement a later high school start time. The AEC re-stated, for the third time in the past year, the basic message that “AEC fully supports a high school start time of no earlier than 8 am and requests AACPS to implement the change.”
“With 3,700 signatures on a petition asking AACPS that no child required to be on a bus before 7 am or at school before 8 am, continued urging from medical professionals, and broad-based support from our community,” says Heather Macintosh, “the question seems to be now moving towards how to make this work. We waited for the outcome of the CAC survey and the results are in: what AACPS needs to do is form a real working group, with stakeholder participation, to look at how other districts managed logistics and budget, and figure out how to make this happen now.”