FCPS superintendent backs $5.5M school start change

FAIRFAX, Va. — School bell start times will change in Fairfax County in the 2015-2016 school year, and Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza is on the record about which of four proposed plans she prefers.

Garza endorses the school system’s proposed Option 3, The Washington Post reports.

Known as the High School – Middle School “Flip”, Option 3 would move middle school start times to 7:20 a.m. High schools would start between 8 a.m. and 8:10 a.m. Elementary schedules would experience no change.

Option 3 is the second most costly proposal at $5,583,005. It involves buying 46 new school busses.

It will be up to the Fairfax County’s school board to decide which option to put in place.

And, Garza understands the transition won’t be easy.

“Because we are such a large and diverse district, these changes will be easier for some parents and more challenging for others,” she says in a video on the school system’s website.

Waiting to make schedule changes until the fall of 2015 will “give the school system an opportunity to work with groups in the community who likely will be impacted by the change,” Garza says.

Fairfax County Schools resolved in 2012 to work toward the goal of later start times for High Schools.

“There’s a solid body of compelling evidence that supports later start times for adolescents,” Garza says.

Parents and students who oppose later start times say finishing classes later will just push other activities, such as athletics, clubs and homework, later into the evening and cause conflicts for students who have after school jobs or who care for siblings.

Just across the Potomac River in Montgomery County, Maryland, Superintendent Joshua P. Starr says changing school start times isn’t fiscally feasible now, but may be revisited in the future.

Starr says the system doesn’t currently have enough money to implement appropriately a plan proposed to cost more than $20 million. There’s mixed support in the community, and about half the students polled don’t want later start times.

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