Fairfax solicits feedback on 4 school start time plans

FALLS CHURCH, Va. – The Washington area’s largest school system is in line for some big changes to help boost the amount of sleep high school students get.

The Fairfax County School Board voted Wednesday to put out four school day schedule proposals for two months of public comment. The board plans to decide this fall on the precise changes to school start and end times.

“After 12 years of just chatting, I think we’re finally moving forward,” says school board member Pat Hynes, who represents the Hunter Mill district.

The options include high school start times ranging from 7:50 a.m. to 9:15 a.m; middle school start times from 7:20 a.m. to as late as 9:30 a.m.; and elementary school start times between 7:40 a.m. and 9:20 a.m.

The four proposals were chosen from a group put together by researchers from Children’s National Medical Center. The schedule changes are projected to cost between $2.7 million and $7.6 million.

Not much would change for elementary students. But high school students could go into school more than an hour later than they do today.

The board rejected one scheduling option that the researchers had recommended because of the estimated $12.3 million cost. That proposal would have started high schools at 8:10 a.m., middle schools at 8:50 a.m, and elementary schools between 7:35 and 9:40 a.m.

The board overwhelmingly voted to keep the option for no change off the list of choices offered for public debate.

Although the board is interested in altering start times, the board is not obligated to change anything.

Public meetings are scheduled in May and June.

The concerns at the Wednesday work session largely focused on the cost of the changes and the impact on extracurricular activities.

Under the plan referred to as the “high school later” option, high schools would not be dismissed until 4:05 p.m. Other plans would have middle schools dismissed as late as 3:50 p.m. or 4:20 p.m.

If middle schools were shifted to a 7:20 a.m. start time, they would be dismissed around 2:00 or 2:10 p.m.

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