Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr invited parents Monday night to weigh in on proposed hours at Montgomery County Public Schools at a public meeting on Oct. 28 and Paint Branch High School.
Starr met with parents at a town hall in Clarksburg following a Community Day spent by Starr visiting students and staff at upcounty schools.
Meetings over the next six months will help gauge the effect of proposed changes on families and staff, Starr said.
The school system is proposing to start high schools 50 minutes later and middle schools 10 minutes earlier. It is also considering extending the elementary school day by 30 minutes.
“We have the second shortest day in Maryland,” said Starr, adding that no changes in bell times would be made before the 2015-16 school year.
Questions from the audience covered a wide range of subjects.
One man said he didn’t think it was fair that Christian and Jewish students are granted religious holidays but not Muslims. He said his children want to observe their religious holidays but they also worry about missing an exam.
Starr said arrangements can be made to reschedule an exam and that “under no circumstances” are Muslim students to be penalized for observing a religious holiday.
Regarding magnet schools, one mother said her son is bored in his fourth-grade math class but is still required to take the course, even though he already knows the material.
“Too many kids, when they get to the upper grades, have to be retaught,” explained Starr about the practice of accelerating student forward by several grades.
The school system, however, is offering a compacted curriculum in the fourth and fifth grades to prepare students to start geometry in the eighth grade, he said.
Several parents asked what the school system is doing to close the achievement gap among students.
Starr said there are increasingly precise ways to identify problems early if a child starts to fall behind but there is currently less money to fund intervention programs as there was years ago.
A mother with a child at Baker Middle School in Damascus was concerned about bullying and profanity among students in the hallways. Starr said rewarding good behavior and discouraging bad is one way to deal with the problem and another is to set a good example as adults.
Starr also talked about the new and tougher tests expected in 2016 related to the new federal Common Core standards.
“They’re more about critical thinking and much more in-depth,” he said.
Three more meetings, where residents can ask questions of the superintendent, are scheduled for Nov. 21 at Montgomery Blair High School, Feb. 3 at Winston Churchill High School and April 28 at Paint Branch High School.