Fairfax County high school start times up for review

(WJLA) - High school students in Fairfax County may be one step closer to catching some extra shuteye.

A report delivered to the Fairfax County School Board Monday recommends that the district move up its start time by more than an hour, citing research that teens need more than eight hours of sleep per night.

Schools in the county currently start at 7:20 a.m., but researchers at Children's National Medical Center in Washington are leaning toward recommending a start time closer to 8:30.

An effort to allow high school students in Fairfax County to catch some extra shuteye is about to get an important update. It's a potential move that's being applauded by many and resisted by some.

For instance, Maria Sejas, who has a son at Falls Church High School, knows that her student isn't ready to go that early.

Sejas believes that a later start would be beneficial for her son and the thousands of other students in Fairfax County.

"He's half asleep half the time and I don't think he's functioning correctly," she said. "(It would) give him a chance to eat breakfast and get more sleep."

Researchers have studied data on start times and teenage school performance from dozens of school districts from across the country.

This specific research was led by Dr. Judith Owens, who says that the science shows that later start times lead to greater student productivity and overall improved health.

"We understand (that) change is hard, (but) the stars are aligned," Owens said. "This is really going to happen this time."

While many on the school board support the potential change, some still need to be sold on the plan. One of them, Kathy Smith, wants more community input.

She says there are still some concerns over things such as less time for family and sports at the end of the day.

"I don't think enough of that has happened, and I've heard from many constituents with concerns," Smith said.