Fairfax County superintendent to present plan for later school start time

WASHINGTON — The issue of later school start times is about to be resolved in the largest public school system in the D.C.-Baltimore metropolitan area after more than a decade of debate.

On Thursday evening, Fairfax County’s School’s superintendent will officially present to the school board a plan for later high school start times. It’s a plan both parties agree is the preferred option of those prepared by Children’s National Medical Center Division of Sleep Medicine.

Myriad studies suggest allowing teenagers to sleep later helps their mental and physical health, performance in school and overall safety.

More than a decade of ideas and proposals for later start times now are down to mere formalities.

The plan will be officially presented to the Fairfax County School Board for consideration Thursday and will be voted on Oct. 23.

The plan includes:

  • High school start times moves to between 8 a.m. and 8:10 a.m.
  • Elementary school changes, if any, would not exceed 10 minutes
  • Middle school start times remain 7:30 a.m.
  • Secondary schools, Robinson, Lake Braddock and Hayfield would follow high school schedules

School administrators have expressed intentions to work to change middle school start times closer to 8 a.m. in the future.

The school board already has approved the purchase of 20 new buses to help with the transition that is expected to begin with the 2014-15 school year.

The entire projected cost of the school start time changes is $4,907,482.

Proposals for later start times in Montgomery County Public Schools are now on hold.

Superintendent Joshua Star says a projected cost of $21.6 million per year is too expensive in the current fiscal climate.

Also, there is mixed feedback from the community.

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.

Fairfax County community input into the proposed changes included eight public meetings attended by about 1,000. More than 2,000 submitted comments using an online feedback form.

Fairfax County’s School Board meets at 7 p.m. Thursday at Jackson Middle School, 3020 Gallows Rd. in Falls Church.

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