Words: Delanie Tucker
On December 19, 2017 the Howard County Public School System made their final decision in regards to the opening and closing times of all Howard County schools during the 2018-2019 school year: they will remain the same.
On February 23, 2017, the Board of Education of Howard County released a School Start and Dismissal Time Committee Report which laid out an overview of the process of changing all HCPSS schools. To address the problem of new times, the HCPSS superintendent at the time, Renee Foose, established a School Start and Dismissal Time Committee. They developed a five-phase process to analyze the issue, including multiple opportunities for feedback from the community.
Since then, information has been released that states a meeting held on December 19, 2017 has brought the discussion to an end. The board had made their decision. They have decided that, although there was a lot of effort put into the new models, no change will be made to the schedules. Taking into consideration the impacts of each model, they came to the conclusion that the schools would not benefit from the changes. Instead, it would have majorly increased the amount of money spent on transportation to and from school, adding costs ranging from $6.2 million to $9.1 million per year.
All of the original motions passed that implemented the changes have been rescinded.
According to the February 23, 2017 report, a motion was passed on April 28, 2016 to direct staff to explore models that made it so middle schools and high schools wouldn’t open until after 8:15 AM. At a Board of Education meeting on November 17, 2016 the staff presented four new models for opening and closing times, considering the impact of each. As a result, the staff was directed to move on with stage four, which was to solicit additional stakeholder feedback through community forums and report findings from community forums to the BoE for action. They were also directed to implement an online forum to gather stakeholder feedback regarding the possible models.
The feedback from the community forums was presented to the BoE on January 12, 2017. A Public Hearing was held on February 7, 2017.
Currently, all Howard County schools begin between 7:25 and 9:30. With the high schools being the early birds, most students have to wake up before the sun is even up. In an attempt to fix the problem, the BoE proposed that high schools would open at 8:30, and the middle schools would follow shortly after at 9:15.
The elementary school times would have been earlier than before. With the model, their school day would have started around 8:15, putting them in a similar situation as the high schools.
As of December 1, 2017, Brian Bassett, a Senior Communication Strategist for HCPSS, stated that nothing had been finalized yet.
“Last year, [The Board of Education] passed a motion that narrowed the school start window from 8:15-9:25 a.m. for next year, but the start times for each level (elementary, middle, and high) have not yet been determined,” Bassett said, “I know that this is something that the Board is still considering and all options are still on the table. Any discussion of the topic will be discussed at a public Board meeting, which has not been scheduled.”
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