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Fairfax County schools superintendent talks start time, technology

Tuesday - 9/3/2013, 10:59am  ET

Karen Garza (WTOP/Kristi King)
Fairfax County Public Schools' new superintendent Karen Garza speaks with WTOP on the phone Tuesday -- her first day in the position. (WTOP/Kristi King)

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WASHINGTON - All students in the D.C. region are back in school as of Tuesday morning, but it's also the first day for Fairfax County's new schools superintendent.

Karen Garza -- who came to Fairfax County Public Schools after serving as a superintendent in Lubbock, Texas, since 2009 -- spoke with WTOP about some of her plans for the school district, including a later start time for some students and the incorporation of technology in the classroom.

Fairfax County is joining other programs around the country aimimg to help over-scheduled kids catch up on sleep by starting school later. Seniors in Fairfax County have been able to apply to skip their first class of the day during the 2013-2014 school year, provided that they didn't need it to graduate.

The program is employed at five Fairfax County high schools and only 10 students are participating, Garza says. Very few students will see a need for the program, she adds.

"I think there are circumstances, obviously, that might warrant us being flexible with certain students, but I think for most students, it is important for them to take a full course load, particularly as they get ready to go to college or into the workforce," Garza says.

The scheduling option will be available to more students in the 2014-15 school year.

When it comes to technology, Garza says there is no doubt about its importance in the classroom.

Fairfax County has a "BWOD" or "Bring Your Own Device" policy for students. Under BWOD, students can register phones, tablets and laptops with teachers to use with a school's wireless network. Many classrooms are using Google apps for education.

"It's kind of like a multi-player thing instead of everyone watching one screen," one Chantilly High School student says of the app use.

Garza says incorporating technology into lessons is a necessity.

"I think we all recognize that in today's environment, students need to be able to use technology for learning and certainly do in the work force," Garza says. "And so we need to make sure that our students are well-prepared to use technology for learning, for the world of work and certainly as they go on to college."

WTOP's Kristi King contributed to this report. Follow @kingWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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