Editorial: Change for the Better in Fairfax County Schools

Editorial: Change for the Better in Fairfax County Schools

Later start times, full-day Mondays; who knows, next maybe gifted-and-talented programs for poor students?

Who says big bureaucracies can’t make big changes?

One year into the tenure of Karen Garza, we have two huge changes that between them impact almost every single student, every family with children in Fairfax County Public Schools.

Last week, the Fairfax County School Board voted to move high school start times all after 8 a.m. beginning next September. Garza, superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools, announced this summer the implementation of full-day Mondays, another previously insurmountable task.

A plan emerged that made this possible for under $5 million (original estimates were wildly and prohibitively higher) while keeping elementary school times the same (or within 5-10 minutes). The goal is to move middle school start times later in the future.

Change comes in mysterious ways. Part of the support for this change comes from the science.

The American Academy of Pediatrics this fall: “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.”

We commend the leadership of the advocacy group SLEEP in Fairfax, which never gave up, even in years when this change appeared impossible.

We suspect the key ingredient is new leadership at the top at FCPS, Karen Garza.

A superintendent across the river, Joshua Starr, will have to ask himself what’s holding up such changes in Montgomery County Public Schools.


Every year is Election Year in Virginia, and this year, the ballot is short but important. Turn out to vote for U.S. Senate, member of the House of Representatives, and a few questions.

You can vote absentee in person between now and Saturday, Nov. 1; after that, vote on Election Day, Nov. 4, at your assigned polling place. Bring photo identification with you, the rules have changed.

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