BLOG: 7:17 a.m. School Start Time - Whose Idea Was That?

How, when, and why does SPHS start at 7:17 a.m.? Help build a community history.

At Start School Later we're trying to figure out just how, when, and why anyone got the idea of starting school at 7:17 a.m. Can you help us create a community history?

Some people who grew up here seem to think "it's always been that way." Others insist that AACPS moved up the clock without public input back in the 70s.

Of course, the answers vary with the age of the person, as well as the shakiness of most of our memories. It's hard to find reliable records of school hours.

Here's the story as told by a veteran teacher: In 1967, when this teacher first began teaching, Anne Arundel County (AACPS) high schools all began at 8:10 a.m. and ended at 2:30 p.m. Due to construction issues in the 1970s, however, the time shifted to 8:40 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. In 1976, this time was changed from 7:45  a.m. to 2 p.m. - presumably to allow for more efficient busing.

A few years later the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) mandated that students had to spend more "clock time" in school. So AACPS decided to add 15 minutes to the day by going from 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

At the last minute, the teacher said, "a curve was thrown," and the extra 15 minutes were added at the beginning of the day, resulting in a 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.  start time. He said that "many reasons were given on the street" for this last minute curve, including demands for sports practices and fast food jobs beginning at 3 p.m. and running until 9 or 10 p.m.

A few years later, when MSDE required even more class "clock time" and after-school demands increased, the end time was made even earlier - 1:55 p.m. - and the start time moved even further up to 7:17 a.m.! In the 2000s, the end time was changed back to 2:05 to add a few more minutes to the school day.

Does this story sound right to you? Certainly, the changing hours this teacher recalls over the years help explain why different people have conflicting memories about when school started "back in the day." But it would be helpful to hear from others, so if you if you remember SPHS hours back in the 50s, 60s, 70s, or 80s, please help us reconstruct this history. Thanks!

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.

Kari O January 24, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I'm looking forward to hearing the history on this one...Hopefully, there are enough folks still in the area who remember the changes that lead to the current start time of 7:17 (ugh!).
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 24, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Some people have also mentioned a period in the 1980s (I think) when the high school had a split schedule, with some students going extremely early (extremely being 7:30 am, I believe, not 7:17) and others later in the day. If anyone reading this remembers the details about that, it would be great to add that to this history.
Maribel Ibrahim January 24, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I didn't go to school here in Anne Arundel County, but now I understand why the issue of early school starts is something that has become so entrenched here. I went to school in New Jersey in the 80's and school started at 8:25am. I caught a public bus at 7:45am (I went to a magnet school, outside of my district). That kind of start is reasonable to me. It's not dark outside in the morning, I still got out (3:15pm) in plenty of time to work or pursue extra-curricular activities and most practices started at 3:30pm or 4pm. (School actually ended at 2:45pm until they added more instructional time). Starting school before the garbage pickups and seeing kids walking or waiting for buses that early is NOT typical!
Elizabeth Coleman Osborn January 25, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Annapolis Middle School had a split schedule due to overcrowding in the late 70's early 80's. Not sure of exact times but have a few friends that went there then, will ask them and get back to you. I graduated from AHS in 1982 and we started around 7:15-7:30 and got out at 1:55 if I remember correctly.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 25, 2012 at 05:22 AM
Thanks, Elizabeth. It really is hard to remember these details, so we definitely should try to get recollections from as many people as possible. I'd also be curious to know if all high schools in the county had the same hours over the years. In other counties (and, of course, in states where each feeder system has only 1 high school), the start and end times often vary quite a bit from one high school to the next.
Elizabeth Coleman Osborn January 25, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Hey Terra, Here is the reply from my friend. Annapolis Middle actually had two schools going to it during that time on a split, morning and afternoon schedule as South River Middle was being built. Here is her response to me. Hey Liz...you know I'm not certain about AHS start and end times during our era, but I know we were home in time to watch General Hospital, so we must have gotten out by about 2:20 which means we probably started by 7:20 or so, tho that seems early to me. For some reason, I recall that our first class bell at AHS was at 7:45, so maybe class times were shorter. As for the split schedule at AJHS (to accommodate students from South River MS while their bldg was being finished)...I don't remember the hours, except that I'm pretty sure we were in the afternoon session. Guess you'd have to do some research on that as my memory's too feeble! Will keep asking around!
dawn Elliott January 25, 2012 at 12:46 PM
I graduated from SPHS in 83 and to the best of my recollection we started at 7:30 and ended at 2pm. If I recall the reasoning... it had something to do with the bus schedules. To that end... Im not sure why the lower schools get out early and then have no school when the high school has exams. Again, I heard it was due to the buses. I cant wait to hear what everyone else remembers!
Hamilton Tyler January 26, 2012 at 02:04 AM
I lived in Annapolis and had friends that went to Annapolis Middle School. I think the hours were 7-12 for the first session and 12-5 for the second session. This lead to all sorts of mischief since the kids had a lot of time at home without parents. As for the 7:17 HS start, it is ridiculous. Do you know any private school that starts at that hour? Severn starts at 8 am. Public schools have a budget approaching a billion dollars and they can't fix this start time? I have heard that it is driven by the bus schedules, which is a poor excuse.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. January 26, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Wow, Hamilton, that split shift must have been a nightmare for parents, teachers, students, and the entire community! As for our inability to start any later than 7:17, it's interesting that ever since I started the petition to start school later (which you can still sign at http://bit.ly/tWa4dS), I've been learning from school systems all over the country that where there’s a will, there’s a way. The problem here (at least so far) is that there’s no will - although as one Florida pediatrician explained to me, "If you put health and learning first, the will is no longer a problem." In any case, thanks to everyone for all the info so far, and please keep sleuthing. I’ve also heard the buses “drove [and still drive] the whole schedule,” so it would also be interesting to track start times even back to the days when most kids walked or biked to school. Anyone remember those?
Mom3SP January 26, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Sometimes the bus companies/drivers' unions (if any) are a factor. Maybe their workers want to go to second jobs earlier, or maybe they'd love to start later.
Hamilton Tyler January 27, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Unions are not an issue with the bus drivers. The bus schedule is put together using a bunch of difference companies as well as some buses owned by the county. I don't think most bus drivers work second jobs between morning and afternoon because there is only 3 hours or so between the shifts.
Sharon Folts January 27, 2012 at 03:09 AM
The pressure for better MSA scores also drives the "need" for more "clock time".
Chet Brewer January 28, 2012 at 01:03 AM
My only other reference was growing up in Texas in the early 70's my high school had two start times 8:00 - 3:00 and 9:00 - 4:00. I thought 8 was too early as a teenager, I hate watching my kids catching the bus at 6:45. My son in contrast loves his 8 AM class in college cause it feels late to him :-)
Mother of 4 March 13, 2012 at 12:47 PM
The first time I heard how early SPHS started was right after giving birth to my first born. My husband told me after he had gone to work early one day. I couldn't believe it. I nearly cried, (postpartum blues), and thought, "How am I going to to get my son off to school that early when he is in HS. Well, I'm doing it. He is a Senior this year. But it breaks my heart to see how tired all of my children are. My middle school children are taking their MSA tests this week and next. I can't believe they have them doing it this week after Spring Forward with the clocks.


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