I've been watching developments in Fairfax County, Virginia lately. Often held up as one of the premiere school districts around - and geographically close enough to drool over - it's interesting to watch their struggle with the issue of school start times and exciting to see them have some recent success!
This resolution was passed April 12th by Fairfax County School Board: RESOLUTION ON THE GOAL OF THE FAIRFAX COUNTY SCHOOL BOARD TO START HIGH SCHOOLS AFTER 8 A.M. AND TO DIRECT THE SUPERINTENDENT TO IDENTIFY AND REPORT ON SCHOOL DIVISIONS WITH LATER STARTING HIGH SCHOOLS
The resolution goes on to say that because of the science and the understanding we have about teen sleep needs and how a healthy sleep schedule impacts health and the ability to learn, the Fairfax County School Board will study the successful approaches of other school districts that have changed to a later start time “including, but not limited to: Arlington County and Loudoun County, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Wilton, CT; and Brevard, FL.”
Since I first wrote about later school start times, we’ve been seeing some exciting developments in districts around the country. Start School Later will be watching and continuing to track the following:
- The Decatur School Board in Decatur, GA, voted this week for the high school back to 8:30 a.m. after the school board moved the high school start time to 8 a.m. last year and parents complained their students had a hard time concentrating in class. One of the district’s solutions to keeping bus costs minimal is that middle school and high school students will ride buses together next year.
- In Barrington, RI, the School Committee’s Health and Wellness Committee, which supports changing the school start times, has posted a survey, designed to gather “personal perspective on how these changes might impact you and what factors you think should be the most important in the decision-making process.” The survey, posted on the School Board website, is based on one used at Harvard and in Fairfax, VA.
- Lafayette Parish School Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper, in Louisiana, wants school start times to change. Middle school, high school, and Pre-K would start at 8:30 and end at 3:30. Elementary would run from 8 to 3. The board will vote at their next meeting.
- On a trial basis, upperclassmen in Dearborn, MI, will be given the option of starting school an hour later, at 8:25 am, in September.
Sandy Evans was elected to the Fairfax County school board in 2010 after many years spent attempting to bring a change to school start times through a grass-roots group called SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal). She and her colleague Dan Storck, drafted the resolution. Phyllis Payne, Co-Founder of SLEEP with Ms. Evans, says the resolution and its goals are a step in the right direction.
“Hopefully, we can apply some of the ideas from other districts here in Fairfax to identify the best solutions to provide healthy school schedules for all students (K-12) while maintaining after-school activities and sports and resolving any other scheduling conflicts that arise when one changes school schedules,” said Ms. Payne.
Some Comparisons between Anne Arundel County and Fairfax County:
Fairfax County, VA: 194 schools vs. AA County 65 Schools
Population 1,015,302, vs Anne Arundel County: population 537,656 (2010)
Fairfax 110,000 students. Anne Arundel (projected) enrollment for this school year is 77,434.
For more information on school start time proposals and changes across the country, please visit www.StartSchoolLater.net or link: http://www.startschoollater.net/start-time-activity-by-state.html