The morning bell for Fairfax County Public Schools high school students may ring nearly two hours later if one of several proposals for later start times goes through.
On Wednesday, the FCPS School Board heard from researchers from Children’s National Medical Center. The medical experts were hired by FCPS a year ago to study the effects of chronic sleep deprivation for teens and how other school systems nationwide have adjusted their schedules.
The CNMC panel told the board members that 67 percent of FCPS high schoolers would benefit from any of the four options presented. The options would move the first bell from the current 7:20 a.m. to as late as 9:15 a.m. With the later high school start times, middle school and elementary schools would be altered (see graphic above).
The board approved four options — with start times from 7:50 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. — to be discussed with the community. The estimated costs would be $2.8 million to $7.6 million, mostly for new bus purchases. If any of the four plans are approved they would not go into effect until at least 2015-16.
The school board says there will be community meetings in May and June on the four proposals.
Superintendent Karen Garza says she supports the effort.
“There is a growing amount of research and literature about this issue,” Garza said. “I know the easiest thing in the world is to do nothing. I know not everyone will be happy with a change. But I do think it’s very important that we do it right.”
However, the school system is facing lean times. County Supervisor Sharon Bulova sad this week the school transfer from the county will be $51 million, which is far less than the nearly $100 million she requested from the county. State funds are expected to add $30 million to the school budget for Fiscal Year 2015, but FCPS still will likely make some hard cuts.
Also, in 2009, the last time the board voted on a similar measure, it failed 10-2.