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School Start and Dismissal Times: Developing Models

Beginning with 2018-2019 school year, all schools will start between 8 and 9:25 a.m. Learn more about the Board of Education’s decision regarding School Start and Dismissal Times.

A School Start and Dismissal Time Committee (SSDT) was established under the direction of the Superintendent to gather input from a broad base of stakeholders regarding the possibility of adjusting the start and dismissal times of schools. The committee examined research related to school start times, developed a survey to identify impacts on student well-being, student activities, community activities, and safety. A five-phase process for the analysis of school start and dismissal times was developed, including multiple opportunities for community feedback.

At the April 28, 2016 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, a motion was passed that directed staff to explore models where no middle or high school begins before 8:15 AM.

Over the past year, the School Start and Dismissal times committee outlined the impact that start and dismissal time changes could have upon the Howard County Public School System’s bus fleet. Two modelling strategies were used.


This report examines the current HCPSS start and dismissal model and four models where no middle or high school begins before 8:15 AM. In each of the proposed models, elementary schools have the earliest start times ranging from 7:30 AM – 8:15 AM. All schools have a 6 hour and 45 minute student day, which is an increase of 15 minutes for elementary schools.

First, the Pupil Transportation Office (PTO) developed a forecasting tool using Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (Esri) industry-leading geographic information system (GIS) and their suite of geospatial and geo- analytical tools to create a process to address what is referred to as a vehicle routing problem (VRP). This process analyzes every regular and specialized bus trip and tiers trips in the most efficient way possible.

The tool also evaluates each trip and calculates drive time, including additional time for students to load and unload a bus safely. The bus is expected to arrive at its starting and finishing point on time. Based on a trip’s ending location, the tool seeks to service another trip in the most cost- efficient manner. For example, if bus A can service a subsequent trip more effectively and efficiently than bus B, then bus A will be assigned. The tool also is programmed to limit the addition of buses to any solution that would dramatically increase the overall cost.

Secondly, the PTO collaborated with Dr. Ali Haghani and Dr. Ali Shafahi, at the University of Maryland’s A. James Clark School of Engineering, to evaluate the current bus routing process to design a system to model bus routes with various school start and dismissal times. After several months of research and testing, they created a mathematical model that calculates the most efficient deployment of the buses.

The Models

Each model outlines key features, start times and delivery windows, the number of buses required, and projected costs. The current model is what we use now, and models one through four are prospective models.

Current Model | Model One | Model Two | Model Three | Model Four

Want to get a quick overview of each model? View a comparison overview →

After viewing all the models

Share your thoughts on the models with us.

Factors considered in the Model Development Process

Over the past two years, the SSDT Committee has considered a wide variety of factors in reviewing the impact of a change in start and dismissal times.


  • Number of sleep hours for secondary students
  • Alertness in classes
  • Optimal wake time for secondary students


  • Availability of childcare
  • Split-day childcare need for elementary age children
  • Availability of secondary students to pick up younger siblings after school
  • Time elementary and middle school students are home unattended before or after school

After-school Activities and Athletics

  • Field availability
  • Joint Use Agreement will need to be revised and approved by the BOE and Department of Recreation and Parks
  • Use of stadium lights
  • Utility costs associated with stadium light use
  • Daylight limitations on contests and practices not held in the stadiums
    • Potential need to schedule AM practices and Saturday contests
  • Available time for after-school activities (clubs, interventions, internships)
  • Available time for after-school employment
  • Start and end times for athletic events
  • Availability of middle school staff for coaching positions


  • Elementary students begin transit (walking or waiting at bus stops) prior to sunrise during daylight savings time
  • Research suggests that car accidents among high school students are reduced with later start times, but increase during rush hour, or after sunset


  • Procuring a sufficient number of drivers due to current bus driver shortage
  • Estimated costs do not account for enrollment growth or change in fuel charges
  • Amount of time between the earliest start time and the last start time is 15–30 minutes shorter than the current model, which may require additional resources
  • Ridership changes


  • Traffic during AM peak time and PM peak time
    • Athletic buses will be in PM peak traffic
    • Traffic on roads near schools during arrival

Implementation Timeline

  • Procurement of bus contracts
  • Hiring of bus drivers
  • Routing validation
  • Budget
  • Superintendent presents Proposed Budget – January 10, 2017
    • BOE adopts Approved Budget – May 25, 2017


  • Changes to staff work day schedules
  • Impact on revenue due to decreased time facilities are available for community use