School Board Approves New Start Times

School Board Approves New Start Times

Brandon Arcari, News Editor

Thursday, October 23, 2014, the FCPS School Board voted to push back the high school start time to 8:00-8:10, outlined in their plan, option #3. This vote was the culmination of over two years of research, studies, and investigation.

In June 2012, the School Board started work sessions and discussion on how the issue raised by new studies that later start times allow students to do better in school. Teens between the ages of 14-18 are more likely to not fall asleep before 11:00 PM, and need at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night. The new plan calls for High Schools to start at 8:00-8:10, the middle schools to be moved to 7:20-7:30, and elementary schools to be unchanged. The plan requires the purchase of 27 new buses, 20 of which were already purchased, and the allocation of 4.9 million dollars for bus drivers, fuel, and training for the year.

Tammy Derenak-Kaufax, School Board chairman said, “The growing body of research on the health benefits for adolescents has become so clear and compelling, we felt that we had to make a change.”

While some might have reservations over the new plan due to sports or homework, the later start times will not affect most sports too aversely, and homework will be similarly pushed back. Students should be excited for the new start time because it will allow them to sleep later and not have to worry about getting up well before sunrise.

 

Below is the FCPS press release.

 

Citing the clear health benefits for adolescents, the Fairfax County School Board approved a recommendation for starting high schools later, between 8 and 8:10 a.m. and ending between 2:45 and 2:55 p.m. This change, which will begin in the 2015-16 school year, will benefit more than 57,000 high school students representing more than 30 percent of Fairfax County Public Schools’ (FCPS) student population.

The School Board’s decision reflects a start time change for all four years of high school, a crucial period for students’ college-preparatory or work-readiness years as well as their athletic engagements and other activities. As a part of the decision, the School Board approved later start times for all middle and high school students who attend the three FCPS secondary schools.

Middle school students will attend school from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. The elementary school window remains unchanged with elementary school students beginning their day between 8 and 9:20 a.m. All elementary schools will start at the same time or within 5 to 10 minutes of their current start time.

“The issue of later start times has been debated and explored for more than a decade in this community,” said Tammy Derenak-Kaufax, School Board chairman. “The growing body of research on the health benefits for adolescents has become so clear and compelling, we felt that we had to make a change.”

In August, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement that recommended later start times so that school schedules would be aligned with the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents. Other research indicates sleep-deprived students have shortened attention spans, slower reaction time, lower test scores, poorer grades, increased rates of depression, and higher risk of car crashes.

The School Board’s approval of the new start times schedule for the 2015-16 school year will allow families and employees almost a full calendar year to adjust to the change.

“We believe it is best to give our families and employees plenty of time to adjust to a change of this magnitude,” said Superintendent Karen Garza. “Between now and next September, we will work with intention to finalize bell schedules and to make needed adjustments to ensure that this is a smooth transition for our stakeholders and our community.”

The change will require the addition of 27 buses at a cost of $4.9 million.

Superintendent Garza developed a recommendation to alter high school start times after extensive discussions and community outreach over the last two years. Beginning in June 2012, the School Board held six work sessions to discuss the issue. In addition, eight community meetings were held between May 19 and June 11, 2014, during which approximately 1,000 participants shared their opinions on four options. In conjunction with the community meetings, more than 2,000 comments were gathered through online feedback.

Background

The Fairfax County School Board adopted a resolution in April 2012 to seek solutions to establish high school start times at 8 a.m. or later.

Following the adoption of the resolution, Children’s National Medical Center’s (CNMC) Division of Sleep Medicine worked with a stakeholder committee and initiated a process to develop a Blueprint for Change. The committee studied several workable scenarios to start high schools in Fairfax County after 8 a.m. in an effort to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety. The scenarios were presented to the School Board earlier this year.

For more details, visit the Later High School Start Times web page.