Reston, VA

FCPS School BusThe Fairfax County Public Schools board has narrowed down its favored option for changing high school start times.

The board will discuss an amended version of Option No. 3 at a work session on Monday. The proposal is one of four schedules developed by sleep experts from Children’s National Medical Center that were presented to the community for feedback last spring.

High school students in Fairfax County currently start school at 7:20 a.m., a time that leaves them chronically sleep deprived. Pushing high school start times past 8 a.m. would have an impact on everything from behavior to grades to driving records and sports injuries, the CNMC experts say.

The FCPS Board voted in 2012 to change start times. They hope to have a plan implemented by the 2015-16 school year.

The original Option 3 had a 6 hour, 40 minute school day, with high schools beginning from 8 to 8:10 a.m. and ending between 2:30 and 2:40 p.m. Elementaries would start between 8 and 9:20 a.m., which is essentially the current schedule. Middle schools would see a big change with a 7:20 a.m. start and a 2 p.m. dismissal.

The amendments that will be discussed by the school board include a school day that is five minutes longer and pushing the middle school start until 7:30 a.m. The board says that in the future, “our goal will be to continue to seek
improvements for even later start times so that  middle schools will move towards 8:00 and high
schools will move towards 8:30.”

The revised plan will cost less than anticipated, according to FCPS documents. The original Option 3 was estimated to cost $5.5 million, mostly to cover 46 new buses.

The revised plan will use fewer buses, and the purchase of 20 new buses has already been allocated in the FY 2015 school board budget, bringing costs to an estimated $1.5 million to $4.9 million, depending on which areas are amended.

The board says it intends to vote on a final bell change in October.

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