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Push to Start School Day Later Has Widest Support Downcounty

Majority of support for later school start times comes from residents in Rockville, Potomac, Bethesda and Chevy Chase, according to a nonprofit research center.

The movement to push back public school start times in Montgomery County may have its widest support in the Potomac and Bethesda areas, according to a study analyzing the Start School Later Montgomery County petition.

The petition urging a later school start time of 8:15 a.m. gathered more than 10,000 signatures in 12 weeks through the fall of 2012 and early January 2013.  According to a report released today by the Lloyd Society, a nonprofit research center, support for the petition came from across Montgomery County and corresponded with population distribution.

Twenty-seven percent of petition-signers came from the Rockville and Potomac areas, and another 25 percent came from Bethesda and Chevy Chase. Silver Spring and Takoma Park residents made up 21 percent of petition-signers. Other supporters came from Gaithersburg, Germantown, Wheaton, Kensington, Olney and northern parts of the county.

Some 1.6 percent of the petition signers were not Montgomery County residents.

The petition was presented to the MCPS Board of Education on Dec. 11, 2012.

Earlier this month, during a community town hall at Seneca Valley High School, a Germantown mom raised the issue of later school start times.

“A 7 a.m. start time where kids are having to wake up at 5:30 is very much like an early day shift worker,” the mom said. “It'd be like a 40-year-old having to wake up at 3:30 in order to get to work for a 5 a.m. start time.”

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said, in response, that he would be in support of later school start times if it were reasonably easy to implement. Starr has established a work group to study the possibility of later school start times in the county.

But Starr said at the town hall that he needed more information on the complexity of the issue before he could make a recommendation to the board. He gave the example of students who take care of siblings after school, have jobs or are involved in sports or after school clubs. 

“Changing start times is not a panacea. It's not a silver bullet. It's not going to solve all of our problems," Starr said.

Read more about the fight to start school later and join in the Patch poll on whether schools should start later on Potomac Patch.

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