Fairfax County School Board to consider delaying school start times

(WJLA) - After a year-long study, the Children’s National Medical Center presented four plans to the Fairfax County School Board on how to adjust school schedules in order to allow high school students to get more sleep.

“Student health and safety is our priority and is non-negotiable -- we can't reduce this to a price tag," said one board member.

By the end of the meeting, board members decided to scrap the first recommendation, and stick with the options that would allow high school students to start as early as 7:50 a.m. or as late as 9:15 a.m., middle school students from 7:20 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and elementary school students from 7:40 a.m to 8 a.m.

“This is a critical step for Fairfax County because start times are too early; they do not incorporate the sleep science that kids need to wake up later in the morning, and they often go to bed later at night," said McElveen.

"I'm the composite mom," added Elizabeth Schultz, Springfield District Representative. "I represent with a student in high school, middle school, and elementary school -- a kindergartner -- so I'm gonna live with the choices we make, not only in the short-term, but also the long-term."

Dr. Judith Owens is the Director of Sleep Medicine at the Hospital, and she has also helped write the proposals. She says that a recent study that looked at eight schools in three states observed that several of the communities found that the number of car accidents involving teens were reduced by 60 to 70-percent by simply changing the school’s start times:

“"To do nothing is to do harm, and the status quo is simply not acceptable in this situation."{ }

Under the selected plan, it would cost anywhere between $2.8 million to as much as $7.6 million for transportation – which is an issue that some board members quickly pointed out in the face of a $17 million budget deficit.

And while the proposed changes don’t affect current seniors, since it wouldn’t go into effect until the 2015 school year at the earliest, students here at Falls Church High School that we spoke with tell us that they wouldn’t support a later start time:

"I wouldn't like the times...I kind of like how it is now early enough that you can do your stuff and get to school on time -- if they do implement that, it would be nice, but afterwards with practices I get home around 6:30 p.m. anyways," said senior Victor Celis. "I wouldn't want to be getting home at 8:30 p.m."