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.
- 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.