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Sunday, June 10, 2012

FXCO School Board to consider later start times for high school

By Laurie Lindberg

As you may have heard, the Fairfax County School Board passed a resolution in April that requires the superintendent to report back to the board about how other school systems have been able to provide high school start times after 8 a.m. 

The school board directed the superintendent to identify successful approaches used in other districts that start after 8 and to report back to the board on June 11. So the school board’s meeting tomorrow will include an in-depth discussion, beginning at 3 p.m., of bell times at other large suburban districts and how a later start time for high schools could work here.

With the leadership of a new board that is committed to reaching this goal, Fairfax County can become a shining example to other large suburban school districts by providing guidance about how to make student health, wellness, and learning a top priority. 

The following facts about later start times were compiled by the advocacy group SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal):
  • 71 of 95 counties in Virginia have high schools that start at or later than 8 a.m., including neighboring Loudoun County which starts at 9 a.m. The school systems of Arlington, Alexandria, and the City of Falls Church also start after 8.
  • Nine hours of sleep is recommended for high school-age children and, in FCPS, two-thirds are sleeping seven or fewer hours on school nights.
  • FCPS buses begin picking up high school students as early as 5:45 a.m., and students are dropped off at county high schools between 6:45 and 7 a.m. With this schedule, students wanting enough sleep must be in bed and asleep by 8:30 or 9 p.m.
  • Children in high schools with later morning start times sleep more hours on school nights. The notion that they will stay up later is a myth.
  • There are fewer car accidents involving teen drivers and lower rates of student depression in school districts with later morning start times. The 2009 FairfaxCounty Youth Survey found that more than one-fourth of FCPS teenage students reported symptoms of depression. 
SLEEP is hopeful that the school board will begin to put the wheels in motion to change high school start times. It is not going to be easy; doing so will require changing start times for elementary and middle schools, too, along with major changes to bus schedules, but the benefits to children will be immense


  1. I would like them to address the illegal immigration issue and complete over-crowding that it has caused before spending time on this dud of an issue.

  2. As a High School Teacher in Arlington, I can tell you that these findings are crap. Students arrive just as tired, because they do stay up later. Because school goes later in the day, practices/clubs/activities are then later, which causes students to stay up later to complete homework. SLEEP IS FULL OF CRAP!

  3. Do parents really want their elementary age students going to school before and getting out before high school students? I would think that some elementary students would be picked up before 7:00 am.

    There are many families that need the high school age siblings to watch the elementary ones after school. I'm sure there would be protests about that.

    The county did a survey recently (2 yrs ago?) and the SLEEP group didn't win a majority. Or do they want all schools starts pushed back? Then buses will be taking kids home at 6:00 pm,or possibly later!

    SLEEP give up!

  4. @Anon 5:34pm: FCPS elementary schools start close to 9am and busses come after 8am for those needing it. You're just making stuff up.

    And "HS Teacher in Arlington" where are your studies or references? Are you polling your students on their bedtimes? If so, let's see your results. Maybe you assign too much homework which keeps them up too late. You're the one who sounds full of it. Perhaps you should take your concerns to an Arlington Co. blog....