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BLOG: Starting School Later—What's the Latest?

There's a big vote in Fairfax County tonight: A resolution to start high school after 8 a.m. and more ...

There’s an important vote in Fairfax County, Virginia, tonight:

RESOLUTION ON THE GOAL OF THE FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD
TO START HIGH SCHOOLS AFTER 8 A.M. AND TO DIRECT THE SUPERINTENDENT TO IDENTIFY AND REPORT ON SCHOOL DIVISIONS WITH LATER STARTING HIGH SCHOOLS

The resolution goes on to say that because of the science and the understanding we have about teen sleep needs and how a healthy sleep schedule impacts health and the ability to learn, the Fairfax County School Board will study the successful approaches of other school districts that have changed to a later start time “including, but not limited to: Arlington County and Loudoun County, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Wilton, CT; and Brevard, FL.”

Since I wrote about later school start times two weeks ago, we’ve been seeing some exciting developments in districts around the country. Start School Later will be watching and continuing to track the resolution in Fairfax and the following: 

  • The Decatur School Board in Decatur, GA, voted this week for the high school back to 8:30 a.m.  after the school board moved the high school start time to 8 a.m. last year and parents complained their students had a hard time concentrating in class. One of the district’s solutions to keeping bus costs minimal is that middle school and high school students will ride buses together next year.
  • In Barrington, RI, the School Committee’s Health and Wellness Committee, which supports changing the school start times, has posted a survey, designed to gather “personal perspective on how these changes might impact you and what factors you think should be the most important in the decision-making process.” The survey, posted on the School Board website, is based on one used at Harvard and in Fairfax, VA.
  • Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, in Louisiana, wants school start times to change. Middle school, high school, and Pre-K would start at 8:30 and end at 3:30. Elementary would run from 8 to 3. The board will vote at their next meeting.
  • On a trial basis, upperclassmen in Dearborn, MI, will be given the option of starting school an hour later, at 8:25 am.

Sandy Evans, elected to the Fairfax County school board in 2010, and her colleague Dan Storck, drafted the resolution. Phyllis Payne, Co-Founder of SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal) with Ms. Evans, says the resolution and its goals are a step in the right direction. 

“Hopefully, we can apply some of the ideas from other districts here in Fairfax to identify the best solutions to provide healthy school schedules for all students (K-12) while maintaining after-school activities and sports and resolving any other scheduling conflicts that arise when one changes school schedules,” said Ms. Payne.

Fairfax County Stats according to the public school system website.

194 schools

Population 1,015,302

More than 1,520 buses carry 110,000 students each day.

Approximately 1 in 6 residents is a public school student.

For more information on school start time proposals and changes across the country, please visit www.StartSchoolLater.net or link:  http://www.startschoollater.net/start-time-activity-by-state.html

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Loretta May 10, 2012 at 11:13 PM
I just saw that Cooper Middle will actually be starting 10 minutes earlier next year, 7th & 8th graders starting at 7:40am. That is like real world, but for 11-13 year olds? And Langley starts at 7:15a.m. The bus arrives at my home at 5:55am. My family and I hate the early starts. Thanks for keeping up the blog....
Joe Thomas June 21, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Funny how fifty years worth of kids have just done fine getting up to go to school at 7:30 but suddenly this pampered generation suddenly has to have the starts times moved back so they can get more sleep. This is the same group of parents who have gotten dodge ball, kick ball, and tug-of-war eliminated from recess.
Heather Macintosh June 21, 2012 at 04:47 PM
This is a great conversation. I'm interested to hear what time we all actually started school. Not the perception that we were all up at first light -- but the reality. Does anyone know when Montgomery County began the shift to schools starting as early 7:15? We have comments from the Harvard School of Public Health that 100 years ago most schools started at 9:00 (all ages), and the Brookings Institute report that said that until a few decades ago very few started before 8:30. Our goal to move high school start times to 8:00 at the earliest seems pretty reasonable given that human physiology hasn't changed (presumably) but our understanding of it has. The science is overwhelmingly in favor of a later start for teens. We all have so many different memories of what time we got up for school, what time class started. Please comment about what you remember. Also, since not all schools in Montgomery start at the same time - I'd like to know what time your local school starts now.
Terra Ziporyn Snider, Ph.D. June 21, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Great question, Heather! If it's any help, here's a similar "community history" we put together about Anne Arundel County's 7:17 a.m. start time from the Severna Park Patch: http://severnapark.patch.com/blog_posts/blog-717-am-school-start-time-whose-idea-was-that. Turns out that high school didn't always start so early and that the move to this absurdly early start time evolved in several small steps earlier and earlier, starting in the 1970s, and all without any community input.
Joe Thomas June 21, 2012 at 07:57 PM
Schools started at 9:00 a hundred years ago because we were still a rural nation. Kids were needed for chores and milking cows, etc. It was also not two miles to school. In most areas it was 15, 20, or 25 miles. For example in Montgomery County students living in Poolesville often went to Rockville or even Bethesda to attend high school. I continue to maintain that this huge jump in technology that we have seen in the last ten years has led to this "too sleepy": syndrome. In our day the last time that we talked to or saw our classmates is when we left school. These days kids text, skype, talk on the phone, Twitter Facebook, etc, etc, all night long. Just because you don't think your kid doesn't does not mean they don't. My mother tells us that we went to bed at 9:30. What high school kid goes to bed at 9:30 these days? No one. Why? They are distracted by all of these gadgets and don't want to be the uncool one the next morning who does not know the latest gossip. By the way all county high schools start and dismiss at the same time.

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