Fairfax considers changing school start times

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WUSA9) -- How about giving your teenager an extra hour of sleep before school?

That is the thinking behind Fairfax County Public Schools considering a change.

Students in Fairfax County get off school before 2 p.m., but in the 2015-2016 school year that will most likely change to a later time.

The Fairfax County School Board considers several options for K through 12th grade. High School could begin anywhere from 7:50 a.m. to 9:25 a.m. Middle School could begin anywhere from 7:20 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Elementary School could begin sometime between 7:35 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

That would push the end of the school day for students in high school between 2:50 p.m. to 4:05 p.m.

"I don't think high school needs to start later, but I trust our school board and I'll roll with," says one parent.

Within these different start and end times the school system has to consider bus schedules and cost. Parents will see different options including possibly flip flopping high school and middle school times.

What ever is decided will not please every parent of nearly 200,000 students in the Fairfax County Public School system.

Elizabeth Schultz would like to see a later start time for her teenage boy.

"He went from waking up at 8:30, now he's getting up at 5:50. His grades have suffered and his health has suffered," Schultz.

Schultz brings a unique perspective. She is a parent and a school board member.

"I'm the only school board member with a high school student, middle school and a kindergartener," Schultz said.

"I'm going to like a change that brings elementary early and middle school and high school later," Shultz says.

Schultz understand balancing curriculum, sleep and cost.

"I think in the end what we are going to hear from the public most will like one or two but certain aspects that are bad and what we'll end up with is a hybrid," said Schultz.

Dr. Judith Owens is the director of sleep medicine at Children's National Medical Center in D.C. and says later school start times mean more sleep.

"When bedtimes remain, and they start an hour later they get an additional hour of sleep," Owens said.

After months of research she is also the brains behind the options being considered by the Fairfax County School board. Some parents worry the later end to the school day would actually mean less time for sleep, homework and extra-curricular activities.

Schultz argues her children would be more rested and would not harm the activities.

Dr. Owens says the normal high school student falls asleep around 11:00 p.m. and they should get about 8-9 hours of sleep. So, she says the 9:00 a.m school start time is ideal.

The school board is aiming for 8:00 a.m. or later start time for high school students.

Dr. Owens says, "Our research shows even as little as 30 minutes has a significant positive effect with attendance, depression etc."


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