Fairfax middle & high schools would open later under new plan

sleepy-student-_Igor_Mojzes_-_Fotolia.com_largeFairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) Superintendent Karen Garza will propose a recommendation on later high school start times at the school board’s business meeting on Thursday, September 18, for the Board’s formal consideration at its October 23 meeting.

The Superintendent’s recommendation, which would be effective for the 2015-16 school year, proposes high schools beginning between 8 and 8:10 a.m., and middle schools beginning at 7:30 a.m.  The recommendation includes the three secondary schools beginning their day on the high school schedule. If the School Board approves the recommendation, it will be the Superintendent’s goal to continue to work to move middle school start times later.

The recommendation has the majority of elementary schools starting at the same time or within five minutes of their current start time. The remaining elementary schools (approximately 25) will start within 10 minutes of their current start time.

If approved by the Board, the timing would allow families and employees almost a full calendar year to adjust to the change.

Body of research

“There is a growing body of research around the effects of early start times on the overall health and wellness of adolescents,” said Garza. “The recommended change is based on this compelling research and significant stakeholder feedback. I believe this change is in the best interest of our students.”

The recommendation follows substantial community feedback, including eight community meetings with more than 1,000 participants and an online feedback form, plus further analysis by staff members and consultants from the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), as well as an in-depth discussion by the School Board at its September 8 work session.

The Fairfax County School Board adopted a resolution in April 2012 to seek solutions to establish high school start times at 8 a.m. or later. After adopting the resolution, the School Board voted in March 2013 to award a contract to CNMC to develop a proposal to achieve the goal. The Board’s goal is to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety.

Working with a stakeholder committee, CNMC’s Division of Sleep Medicine initiated a process to develop a Blueprint for Change. The committee studied several workable scenarios to start high schools in Fairfax County after 8 a.m. in an effort to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety. The scenarios were presented to the School Board at a work session on April 23.



About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.