Board of Education to Consider Bell Times Options

January 6, 2015

Proposals would allow high school to start later; Community input sought on options

The Montgomery County Board of Education will consider several options for adjusting school starting and ending times—also known as bell times—allowing high school students to begin classes later in the day. The Board will hear a presentation on the options at its January 13, 2015, meeting and will gather public input throughout January and early February.

Any changes to bell times in Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) would be approved on February 10, 2015, as part of the Board’s Fiscal Year 2016 Operating Budget Request to the Montgomery County Executive and County Council. The annual costs of the proposals before the Board range from zero to nearly $6 million. Board of Education President Patricia O’Neill urged the public to learn more about the options and share their thoughts and concerns.

“Any change to our starting and ending times will have an impact on every student, parent, and employee in Montgomery County Public Schools, so it is important that our citizens understand the options we are considering and let their voices be heard,” Mrs. O’Neill said.

The Board will hold two public hearings on bell times, both on Thursday, January 22, 2015, in the auditorium of the Carver Educational Services Center at 850 Hungerford Drive in Rockville. The first hearing will run from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. and the second will run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Those wishing to testify should call 301-279-3617 to reserve a spot, starting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, January 15, 2015. All speakers will have three minutes. Written feedback can be sent to and should be submitted before the close of business on Monday, February 2, 2015.

Superintendent Joshua P. Starr is recommending that the Board consider no-cost options, given concerns about budget deficits at the state and local level.

“I have said all along that I would like high school to start later in the day in order to support the health and well-being of our students,” Dr. Starr said. “But we must balance this decision against the other needs and priorities we have in the district and ensure any changes to high school bell times do not place an unfair burden on other students and their families. At this point, given the projected budget shortfalls, I believe the only options that should be considered are those that do not add any additional cost to the budget.”

Background and Overview

Currently, the starting and ending times for MCPS are:



Length of Day

High School

7:25 a.m.–2:10 p.m.

6 hours, 45 minutes

Middle School

7:55 a.m.–2:40 p.m.

6 hours, 45 minutes

Elementary School Tier 1

8:50 a.m.–3:05 p.m.

6 hours, 15 minutes

Elementary School Tier 2

9:15 a.m.–3:30 p.m.

6 hours, 15 minutes


In 2013, Dr. Starr created a Bell Times Work Group to study the possibility of shifting school starting and ending times. The group was created in response to a growing body of research on the impact that early start times have on adolescents. The Work Group report was released in October 2013. Based on its findings, Dr. Starr put forward a recommendation to consider shifting high school start times 50 minutes later and middle school start times 10 minutes earlier, while extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes with starting times unchanged.

MCPS studied the full financial impact of this recommendation and gathered extensive feedback from a broad range of stakeholders, including students, staff, parents, community members and businesses. In June 2014, Dr. Starr recommended that MCPS not move forward with the proposal based on the significant annual cost—at least $21 million a year—and mixed community support.

The Board asked Dr. Starr to develop other options for changing bell times that would cost no more than $10 million a year. The Board has been presented with five new options regarding bell times, with some having different variations for consideration:

  • Shift all start times 20 or 35 minutes later;
  • Start elementary school first;
  • Modify Dr. Starr’s October 2013 recommendation;
  • Split the high school day; and
  • Make no changes to bell times and explore other options to provide flexibility for high school students.

Some of the options will have little or no budgetary impact, while others will have annual costs between $2.6 million and $5.85 million.  Transportation is the driving factor behind the cost of these proposals. In order to run an efficient and economical transportation system, most MCPS buses complete four runs in the morning and the afternoon. School starting and ending times must give buses enough time to complete one route and get to the next one. Each option the Board is considering will impact transportation costs differently.

View a summary of the options the Board will consider

Read Dr. Starr’s memo and recommendation to the Board

Read the Bell Times—Analysis of Additional Options report

Note: Appendices C and D, referenced in the report and Dr. Starr's memo, are available on the MCPS website

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