• School Start Times Task Force Study: Executive Summary


    On February 19, 2014, Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) Interim Superintendent Mamie J. Perkins formed a 15-person task force in response to community concerns about the current start time of AACPS’ high schools and its impact on student health, safety and learning. Over the subsequent six month period, the School Start Times Task Force (Task Force) was charged with thoroughly examining school start times at all levels of the school system, culminating in  a formal report to be  submitted to the Anne Arundel County Board of Education in September 2014. Task force participants represented a number of community, and school system organizations, reflecting a broad cross-section of Anne Arundel County.

    The Task Force met regularly over six-months, volunteering countless hours gathering, sharing, reviewing and discussing pertinent information related to the charge given them. Task Force members reviewed a plethora of relevant medical, social, and behavioral research regarding students, sleep and school performance as well as work previously conducted within AACPS and other districts of comparable size. Through input and data provided by the AACPS Divisions of Transportation and  Budget and Finance, the Task Force was able to carefully review potential implications, including financial  implications of altering school start and end times. Ultimately, the Task Force developed options regarding changes to school start times at all levels (elementary, middle, and high schools).

    Fundamental Beliefs & Assumptions

    While studying the many complex elements related to the importance and potential move to a later school start time for students, especially our high school students, the AACPS School Start Times Task Force was guided by the following fundamental assumptions:

    • Adolescents will be better students if they are healthier; a contributing factor to good health is getting an appropriate amount of sleep.
    • Starting high schools later than 7:17 AM. will allow adolescents to get more sleep each night.
    • Children need access to both curricular and co-curricular activities in their lives.
    • Students should not be walking to or from school/bus stops in the dark during the morning or afternoon twilight hours.
    • Providing school start times that align with a family's schedule, when possible, minimizes the time students are unsupervised, before and after school, and maximizes time for family engagement.


    Guided by these assumptions, the AACPS School Start Times Task Force reviewed prior school start time studies and discussed multiple ways to adjust the start times of high schools, middle schools, and elementary schools to ensure adolescents more sleep.  The Task Force looked at options considered by other school systems throughout the nation and locally, especially those put forth by neighboring Fairfax County, VA. Following several months of work, the Task Force proposed its own unique set of options designed to address the issue of school start times in Anne Arundel County Public Schools.  While designing each option, the Task Force deliberated the following questions:

    • How much additional sleep will this option provide our adolescent students?
    • Is this option conducive for all of our preK-12 learners?
    • Will all students have a safe environment for walking to and from school or their school bus?
    • How will this option impact before and after school care for young students and their families?
    • How will this option impact K-12 sports and other co-curricular activities – both school and community-based offerings?
    • How many additional buses and drivers, if any, will AACPS need in order to transport students to and from school at the proposed adjusted times?
    • How many additional staff will be needed, if any, to manage the proposed additional buses and transportation routes?

    Additionally, the Task Force identified the following areas as likely to experience significant impact due to a change in school start times: Health, After School Activities & Sports, Before & After School Care, and Transportation.  In order to further understand the impact of later school start times on these areas, the Task Force engaged in a deep analysis of each area through interviews and conferences with experts and targeted school systems who have implemented later school start times across the region and country.


    Based on an analysis of the areas listed above, the Task Force concluded that extra sleep potentially gained by starting school later would be beneficial for adolescents, particularly high school students. Task Force members spent almost three months identifying the potential impacts of moving school start times on AACPS students, their families, AACPS employees and the greater Anne Arundel community. These impacts— positive and negative (most impacts cut both ways) —informed the Task Force’s final choice of options. As would be expected in any group, particularly one as large as the AACPS School Start Times Task Force, there was healthy disagreement on the magnitude of these potential impacts. Specifically, Task Force members, representing numerous stakeholder groups, debated on whether an impact was positive or negative and to what degree stakeholders were potentially impacted. Most critically, the Task Force members discussed whether the overall positive benefits of later start times outweighed the potential negative effects.  They determined that later school start times was worthy of consideration and could be achieved in an acceptable way.  They then produced four start-time or bell-schedule options for the Board of Education’s consideration.  Finally, the Task Force analyzed each of the four options through a financial lens to attach an estimated price to each option.  During the financial discussions, the Task Force reviewed and recognized the potential cost benefit of implementing transportation software as an efficiency and cost-saving contributor to the proposed School Start Time options.


    After extensive discussions, including significant input from the AACPS Transportation and Budget Offices, the AACPS School Start Times Task Force has determined that later start times can be achieved in an acceptable way, and offer four bell schedule options that achieve this goal. These are offered as starting-point model options designed to generate further investigation and discussion:

    • Option A: High schools begin at 8:30AM; middle schools begin at 9:30AM; and elementary schools begin between 7:50AM and 9:15AM.
    • Option B: High schools begin at 9:15AM; middle schools begin between 8:20-8:30AM (with one middle school beginning at 9:00AM); and elementary schools begin between 7:40AM and 9:15AM.
    • Option C: All schools shift 30 minutes later than current start times.
    • Option D: All schools shift 30 minutes later than current start times with a late-start hybrid learning option for some high school students.

    These options are explained in detail on the School Start Times Task Force website located at www.aacpublicschools.org.  Also included on the website is research regarding the impact of school start time changes on a student’s physical and mental health, safety, academic achievement, and equity.

    Next Steps

    If the AACPS Board of Education chooses to move forward to consider adjusting future school start times, the Task Force recommends the following next steps:

    • Meet with community stakeholder groups and hold face-to-face and virtual Town Hall meetings throughout the county to seek public feedback on the proposed options;
    • Weigh public feedback and adjust models accordingly to maximize potential positive student impact and cost-savings;
    • Further study the potential positive impacts that transportation software could have on improving bus routing and cost efficiency; and
    • Additional discussion and further study on the potential impacts on AACPS employees as well as other community stakeholder groups is needed.

    Overall, the Task Force concluded that school schedules can take many shapes and sizes in order to meet the needs of students.  It is evident that some school districts across the nation have been able to implement various school schedules that include later school start times and they have ensured that the needs of students were met and the health of students prioritized.