FCPS Wants Your Input on School Start Times

FCPS School BusFairfax County Public Schools will host a series of community meetings in May and June to gather opinion from parents and students about adjusting school start times.

The Cluster 8 meeting will be Tuesday, May 27 at South Lakes High School. Residents can attend any of the other meetings as well. Visit the FCPS website to see the full list of dates and times.

The Fairfax County School Board adopted a resolution in April 2012 to investigate changing high school start times to after 8 a.m. In 2013, it contracted with Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) to study the effects of chronic sleepiness and develop a proposal for later start times.

Fairfax County high schools begin at 7:20 a.m. — which means some students are on the bus as early as 5:45 a.m.

There has been a grassroots effort the last several years to change high school start times in Fairfax. The local advocacy group Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP) has been very vocal, saying that 72 out of 95 Virginia counties now start at high school 8 a.m. or later. Montgomery County, Md., also is exploring later start times.

CNMC doctors say teens need eight hours of sleep or more for optimum health. Sleep deprivation leads to shortened attention span, decreased higher level cognitive skills, reduced ability to learn and remember new information, decreased efficiency in completing tasks, lower standardized test scores and decreased school achievement, says CNMC’s Project Smart Sleep website.

Last month, CNMC presented four scenarios to the FCPS Board. Implementing the changes would cost anywhere from $2.7 million to $7.6 million, mostly due to the purchasing of additional buses. The changes would also affect middle school and elementary school students as well.

High schools would begin from 7:50 a.m. to as late as 9:15 a.m. under the four proposals. To see additional details, visit FCPS’ website.

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