Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Karen Garza will propose later high school start times at the Fairfax County School Board’s business meeting on Thursday, Sept. 18, for the Board’s formal consideration at its business meeting on Thursday, Oct. 23.
The superintendent’s recommendation, which would be effective for the 2015-16 school year, proposes high school start times between 8 and 8:10 a.m., and middle schools beginning at 7:30 a.m. The county’s three secondary schools, Robinson, Lake Braddock and Hayfield, would also begin their day on the high school schedule. If the School Board approves the recommendation, Garza will work to move middle school start times later.
“There is a growing body of research around the effects of early start times on the overall health and wellness of adolescents,” said Garza. “The recommended change is based on this compelling research and significant stakeholder feedback. I believe this change is in the best interest of our students.”
The recommendation has the majority of elementary schools starting at the same time or within five minutes of their current start time. The remaining elementary schools (approximately 25) will start within 10 minutes of their current start time. If approved by the Board, the timing would allow families and employees almost a full calendar year to adjust to the change.
The recommendation follows community feedback, including eight community meetings with more than 1,000 participants and an online feedback form, plus further analysis by staff members and consultants from the Children’s National Medical Center, as well as a discussion by the School Board at its Sept. 8 work session.
The Fairfax County School Board adopted a resolution in April 2012 to seek solutions to establish high school start times at 8 a.m. or later. After adopting the resolution, the School Board voted in March 2013 to award a contract to Children’s National Medical Center to develop a proposal to achieve the goal. The board’s goal is to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety.
Working with a stakeholder committee, Children’s National Medical Center’s Division of Sleep Medicine initiated a process to develop a Blueprint for Change. The committee studied several workable scenarios to start high schools in Fairfax County after 8 a.m. in an effort to improve students’ mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety, according to an FCPS statement. The scenarios were presented to the School Board at a work session on April 23.
Four options were presented by consultants from Children’s National Medical Center at community meetings and via an online form in May and June. After analyzing the feedback, Children’s made a final recommendation to the School Board at its work session on July 14.
In total, the School Board has held six work sessions since June 2012 to discuss the issue.