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Public High School Students Need You Now!

Maribel Ibrahim, Co-Founder and Director of Start School Later, Inc. shares why Anne Arundel County residents need to stand up in droves to be heard on the issue of student sleep needs.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

The Truth January 08, 2013 at 02:53 PM
"Single parent families rely too heavily on older children that are working to provide needed income, often at the expense of education requirements." Very misleading, please provide facts and not hearsay. Until actual studies are presented by a non-bias organization, there's no leg to stand on. Moreover, students have been attending this time for years. I suggest quit finding excuses and relying on the government for support and work the issue out as a family. If a single parent is challenged, I am certain a friend would provide assistance or Social Services. In addition, the State's Social Services should be all over this if a parent is not providing child support. Changing school times isn't going to increase a family’s income
W. L. January 08, 2013 at 11:00 PM
To The Truth, this is not about anything you mentioned. It is about studies already done on high school age children which indicates they do not function safely or academically that early in the morning, leaving for school at 6:15 in some areas as they do here in Anne Arundel County. It has been studied that their body clocks kick in later in the morning. They also cannot fall asleep early like a small child can, thus sleep deprivation is the end result. This appears to be across the board in teens of that age according to studies. Many of them fall asleep in their first class of the day, or just cannot concentrate. As they get older and become adults, they do not have this problem. It sounds like the President of the Board of Education did not understand the situation either.
Tracy January 09, 2013 at 04:45 PM
Could someone explain how this is going to happen logistically. What time will the middle schools and elementary schools start if we change the high school? How will the transportation issue work with the buses? Please don't beat me up on this, I just want to know all the facts before being asked to sign a petition. Thank you.
Casey Cosgrove January 10, 2013 at 02:24 AM
Yes, I'm curious too about the logistics. After all these years of pushing for later start times, you think the advocates of this change would have their plan ready to go. Instead, Fairfax County had to hire a consultant to even see if it was possible, wasting untold further money on this change nobody wants. So what's the plan?
Mike Brown January 10, 2013 at 03:02 PM
I am curious as well. When I went to school in Pennsylvania back between 2001 and 2005, the buses that were used for high school and middle school students were also used to transport the elementary school children to school at a later time. I believe that the other portion that we have to think about it is this. For those of the students who are in extracurricular activities how much school will they miss if the school day is ended and they have to go to an away scrimmage/game/tournament? How many additional days will they have to pulled out of a classroom setting to attend these events? I agree with Casey Cosgrove on the fact that the advocates leading this charge would have a plan and proposal in place prior to them presenting anything to the board. Even if is just ideas and nothing formal.
Maribel Ibrahim January 10, 2013 at 06:26 PM
Thank you all for your comments, everyone. I appreciate this dialogue. The Truth, I am just as interested in the truth as everyone else. The information I was presenting was anecodotal, but you're right, I should have changed it to read low income families, because many two parent families also have children that are working afterschool jobs to contribute to the family income. In any case, taking a small side point which is not the main argument is typical for many respondents that cannot refute the facts that the sleep needs of our children are not being met with early school start times. The point I was making is that Mr. Pruski was alleging that these demographics make it a challenge to implement school start times. Tracy, the request is to establish a baseline for when schools should start, not a specific proposal. The problem is that schools have routinely slashed their transportation budgets by cramming in as many tiers as possible. In all fairness, staggered start times is a relatively recent phenomenon, starting in the late 1960's. There was no sleep research then, and students were not required to wake at such early hours. Now, the evidence is clear. I could list it until I'm blue in the face. In fact, I have. I created www.StartSchoolLater.net in response to educating the American public on the real need to value sleep and consider sleep needs when planning school schedules. For readers that really want to understand the issue, visit our site.
Maribel Ibrahim January 10, 2013 at 06:40 PM
Mike and Casey, Fairfax had to hire an independent consultant because there was such resistance to the change and whether it could be done. Not only has the consultant come up with low-cost, creative solutions, it just shows that any change would require extensive coordination to implement. Asking proponents of health and safety standards to come up with a plan is a typical bullying tactic used to delay or postpone any discussion on the topic of safety. When people are shot and killed onsite in an educational facility, these kinds of arguments are fruitless. Fortunately, in the case of Anne Arundel County, there is no masked gunman on the premises. Our youth are just being fleeced daily of their ability to get their required sleep in order to thrive. Asking us to "have a plan" is like telling auto manufacturers that it's not worth legislating for seat belts because they don't have a plan for making citizens comply with wearing them. But, since you asked for one, one of my suggestions would be to go back to consistent starts for all students. This would completely eradicate complex scheduling issues, allow communities to embrace a consistent schedule for every other facet of life. Also, with the route mapping software and population density that we have now compared to the 1960's, we can come up with efficient transportation methods. Wed also save taxpayer money on school nurse visits, suicide counselors, outpatient treatment, police activity and more.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 10, 2013 at 08:50 PM
The Start School Later petition (www.aacstarttime.com) goes to AACPS TONIGHT (1/10/13) at 7 p.m. Don't miss your chance to sign & share your thoughts: http://signon.org/sign/set-8-am-as-the-earliest. It's a great chance to make a difference for millions of children and families, now and for many years in the future.

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