Editorial: Back to School - Good Steps, Good Intentions

Editorial: Back to School - Good Steps, Good Intentions

The first day of school in Fairfax County is Tuesday, Sept. 2, but Monday, Sept. 8 is the beginning of something important.

For the first time in decades, elementary school students will have a full day of school on Mondays instead of being sent home hours early. This action makes so much sense in for families with children in elementary school. The ability of Superintendent Karen Garza to facilitate this change to go into effect right away is remarkable, and we hope a promise for more changes ahead.

Earlier this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement calling for later start times — not earlier than 8:30 a.m. — for high school and middle school students. It’s not impossible although some school systems would have you believe that it can’t be done. It’s time to make that change in Fairfax County.

The science is undisputed. From the abstract:

“A substantial body of research has now demonstrated that delaying school start times is an effective countermeasure to chronic sleep loss and has a wide range of potential benefits to students with regard to physical and mental health, safety, and academic achievement. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports the efforts of school districts to optimize sleep in students and urges high schools and middle schools to aim for start times that allow students the opportunity to achieve optimal levels of sleep (8.5–9.5 hours) and to improve physical (eg, reduced obesity risk) and mental (eg, lower rates of depression) health, safety (eg, drowsy driving crashes), academic performance, and quality of life.”

You can read the report here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2014/08/19/peds.2014-1697.full.pdf

Back to school nights begin this week and run into October. For parents and students, there is no more important event that to turn up at Back to School Nights for your children, introduce yourself to teachers and open the lines of communication. Here is a link to a daunting list of Back to School Nights in Fairfax County: