I spent last Saturday afternoon today talking with Andrew Pruski, President of the Board of Education (BOE) of Anne Arundel County and two of his staff members. It was a public meet and greet at Annapolis Mall and we had constructive dialogue for half an hour.
According to Mr. Pruski, county constituents, as a large group, do not clearly appear to be interested in the issue of school start times. Mr. Pruski also pointed to two demographics in Anne Arundel that make this issue a challenge: military families and single parent families.
Military families travel with orders and are expected to make sacrifices without question. Single parent families rely too heavily on older children that are working to provide needed income, often at the expense of education requirements. As a result, we have too many community members that are not able to stay engaged in this complex issue.
On the other side of the fence, we have observed that dual income families with resources create individual solutions, like sending their kids to private school, getting medical waivers to miss first period, driving their kids to school and “solving” their family's problem.
This is why we need your help. The Board of Education needs to understand that later school start times are not a matter of preference or convenience, but a real matter of public health and safety. Now, more than ever, we need a lot of local petition signatures and many people publicly attending meetings and hearings to put student health and safety on the radar. As Mr. Pruski and Ms. Ritchie alluded, if the community at large is not overwhelmingly concerned about this issue, it will fall on deaf ears.
If you haven't done so already, get everyone 13 years and older in your household to sign the Anne Arundel County petition here: www.aacstarttime.com
The Anne Arundel County Chapter of Start School Later will officially present the petition to the Board of Education in Annapolis on Thursday, January 10th at 7pm. Click here for more details and to RSVP. Dr. Judith Owens, MD, Director of Sleep Medicine at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC, will testify on the actual health impact of our insane school start times.
Also, Heather Macintosh, Co-Director of the Anne Arundel County Chapter, is also urging you to attend the Annapolis Education Commission (AEC) meeting on Monday, January 7th, 5:30 - 7:00 pm, in the Pip Moyer Rec Center, 273 Hilltop Lane, Annapolis.
The voting AEC members will be asked to vote on a resolution stating, "The Annapolis Education Commission fully supports a start time for Annapolis High School of no earlier than 8:00 am, and requests Anne Arundel County Public Schools to implement the change in Fall 2013."
Please attend the meeting and add your support. There will be some discussion of the issue preceding the vote, but only the 8 appointed members will vote to adopt.
We have a goal of 5,000 signatures on our local Anne Arundel County petition before the Thursday meeting and we have a way to go. Please share this link via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, list serves, email lists and groups that you are a part of.
The issue of early school start times was put on the national radar because of our wonderful Patch readers, both here in Severna Park and in 11 other Patch states.
Here in Anne Arundel County, we need you now more than ever.
Maribel Ibrahim, The Frugal Writer, created www.StartSchoolLater.net and is the Director of Strategic Planning for Start School Later, Inc., a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that the health, safety and equity of children are protected when determining school start times. Start School Later now has 10 chapters working in communities across the country to protect the sleep needs of public school students.