To: Dr. Kevin Maxwell, Superintendent of Schools, AACPS, Mr. Andrew Pruski, President, AACPS BOE, and Other Members of the AACPS Board of Education
Set 8 a.m. as the earliest opening class time for Anne Arundel County Public Schools
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.
Why is this important?
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. Our current school hours mean that even teenagers who refrain from overpacked 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. That’s why we are proposing 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 our public schools, while still allowing the possibility of starting high schools even later, as most research suggests they should.
Dr. Maxwell and Board of Education members, it's time to make this change. We respectfully ask that school schedules be set with the health, safety, and academic achievement of our county's students as top priorities. We also ask you 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, we ask that you 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 we can set a healthy school schedule for the next school year.