Monday, March 9, 2009

Sleep and High School Start Times: Lessons from Fairfax County

An editorial in today’s Washington Post examines the debate over school start times. It shows just how complex it can be to make changes to daily school schedules.

proposal in Fairfax County, Va., would change the start time of most high schools in the county from 7:20 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. It appears that there is strong support for a change. But there are also many obstacles.

Money is one concern. In Fairfax County, 169,000 students must be transported to and from school each day. This is both complicated and costly.

The Post reports that Fairfax school officials once estimated that a schedule change could cost up to $40 million. But they found ways to make bus routes more efficient. This led to the current “no-cost” proposal.

Teens and parents may have
concerns about starting and ending school later. Will some teens still have time to work on school nights? How will after-school activities be affected? Will the new schedule allow enough time for school teams to practice and play games?

In Fairfax County the group Worried About Keeping Extra-curriculars (WAKE) formed around this issue. Another group called Save Our Sport formed to represent the needs of high-school swim teams and dive teams.

Another huge hurdle for many parents is the issue of day care. Changing the schedule may cause younger children to start and end school earlier. Working parents may have to make new arrangements for the supervision of these children after school.

There also is a
debate over the merits of the problem. Scientists report that a biological change causes teens to feel sleepy later at night. Early school start times may prevent them from getting the sleep they need.

Others may argue that teens just need more discipline. They could get more sleep if they would get off the Internet and put down their cell phones earlier at night.

What do you think? Is it worth the effort to change school schedules so teens can get more sleep? Or does making a change cause more problems than it solves?
Update 3/20/09: The Washington Post reports today that the Fairfax County School Board rejected the proposal to delay high school start times by a vote of 10 to 2. According to the article, the board decided that changing the school start times would create too much stress for students and parents.


Nickel said...

All of this is true.
THere is no logistic way of changing school times and this would simply mean shift of school hours
Students get home late in later starts so they sllep late, negating the effect!

theclector said...

Hey Nickel,
Posting at 11:30 PM and only a couple of typos! Good for you! Resistant to change are you? In the face of mountains of evidence to the contrary you hold fast to your 'ideals'. Are you overweight too? Get some sleep it will help.

theclector said...

Only two typos posting at 11:30. Go to sleep!
If you came away from this article with only the negatives of changing start times you are indeed sleep deprived! I hope you are not overweight or diabetic or pre diabetic as are many too many Americans. The mountains of evidence are on the side of letting teens sleep later... read on! Please evolve.

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