Prince William Co. school system seeks feedback on potential new bell times

School officials in Prince William County, Virginia, are planning to solicit student, staff and parent feedback on potential changes to the county’s bell schedules in the coming weeks.

The school system is planning to deploy its feedback surveys around April 25 with a two-week administration window.

The school board said it will then use the survey results to evaluate the level of support given to each of the potential changes to school start times. Any approved changes would be implemented for the 2023-24 school year, according to a presentation provided to the school board Wednesday night.

Four potential scheduling models were presented to the school board and crafted using information from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommend starting middle and high school after 8:30 a.m.

A chart shows the impact of potential changes to school start times in Prince William County, Virginia. (Courtesy Prince William County School Board)

Research presented also said that delayed school start times could decrease traffic accidents involving adolescent drivers.

The update is the latest in the county’s efforts to explore potential changes to school start times. It started looking into start time changes in January 2020.

Currently, high schools begin the day first, followed by middle school and then elementary school.

Proposed changes include:

  • Starting high schools later and making elementary schools start the day first, while keeping middle schools at the same time
  • Keeping the current order of school start times (high, middle, elementary) while delaying start times until 8:30 a.m.
  • Starting with elementary, middle and then high schools and starting no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
  • Starting high school and middle school at the same time, not earlier than 8:30, and starting elementary school earlier

School officials also detailed the cost of each potential change, the impact it may have on the community and school employees and any additional things to consider, such as whether the schedule change would impact extracurricular activities.

A chart with examples of new school bell schedules in Prince William County, Virginia.

Jennifer Cassata, the school district’s director of research, accountability and strategic planning, said proposed recommendations stem from sleep science literature.

“The research strongly says that it’s critical to take steps to involve the community from the outset to ensure that any changes do not create unintended consequences or inequities,” Cassata said.

More information about the options under consideration are available online.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect the correct day of the Prince William County school board meeting.)

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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