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Fairfax County School Board to Hear Report on Later High School Start Times

Board will hear results of sleep study, including effects of later start times and importance of proper teen sleep habits.

The Fairfax County School Board will hear a report on later high school start times today.
The Fairfax County School Board will hear a report on later high school start times today.
The Fairfax County School Board will hear a progress report from a sleep study conducted by the Children's National Medical Center today. The study, which began last April, is examining all aspects of moving high school start times to later in the morning. 

Judith Owens of the Children’s National Medical Center Division of Sleep Medicine, spoke to parents in McLean last October about the study's goals and the science behind it. 

She called later high school start times "one of the most important steps to take to ensure teenagers are getting adequate sleep."

According to the the Division of Sleep Medicine, sleep is essential for memory retention, organizing thoughts, quick reactions, working with accuracy and efficiency, abstract, creative and insightful thinking. 

Conversely, a lack of sleep can lead unhappiness, depression, hopelessness, as well as inhibit production of insulin, human growth hormone and chemicals that control hunger.

Owens said that teenagers entering adolescence are naturally programmed to have trouble falling asleep before 11 a.m., meaning that waking at 5 or 6 a.m. is interrupting an important part of their sleep cycle. 

“The latter part of our sleep is spent largely in what we call rapid eye movement, or REM sleep, which is absolutely critical for memory and learning,” she said. “We’re actively robbing students of this very important phase of sleep by asking them to wake up at 5:30 or 6 in order to get to school at 7-7:30.”

According to the Washington Post, the Fairfax County School Board experimented last fall by allowing seniors to drop their first class of the morning, provided it wasn't required to graduate, and more than 650 students participated. 

The group presenting to the school board today has been tasked with providing an implementation plan for later start times, which would include new bell schedules, changed bus pickup times and more. 

Since the 1990s, more than 70 school districts around the country have moved high school start times back, and Owen said very few have gone back to the earlier times. 


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stacy January 13, 2014 at 11:01 AM
Someone is going to have to take that earlier time. Loudoun has the elementary schoolers start earlier which creates a very unsafe environment for those little ones walking to school in the dark. Follow Arlington's lead and send in the middle schoolers first.
John G January 13, 2014 at 11:37 AM
Sleep deprivation? What a laugh! Get off the web, watching cable TV, Netfilx, and texting until all hours, stop being overscheduled with activities that are merely used as 'admissions boosters' for college rather than displaying any genuine concern or interests - and suddenly many hours are freed up...most Fairfax kids blissfully live in the lap of luxury, most not NEEDING to work since parents provide car, spending money, etc... we're falling behind FURTHER against many other nations academically...Also...if kids are coming in at staggered times during the morning, doesn't it present more of a security risk to have to deal with rather than the children arriving all at once?
John G January 13, 2014 at 12:37 PM
Sleep deprivation? What a laugh! Get off the web, watching cable TV, Netfilx, and texting until all hours, stop being overscheduled with activities that are merely used as 'admissions boosters' for college rather than displaying any genuine concern or interests - and suddenly many hours are freed up...most Fairfax kids blissfully live in the lap of luxury, most not NEEDING to work since parents provide car, spending money, etc... we're falling behind FURTHER against many other nations academically...Also...if kids are coming in at staggered times during the morning, doesn't it present more of a security risk to have to deal with rather than the children arriving all at once?
John Strother January 14, 2014 at 11:52 AM
Early to bed, early to rise makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise. Have the children go to bed by 10:00 PM and they will have plenty of rest. These children needs to bend to the world and not have the world bend to them. Later start times will only allow these children to stay up later.
novatom January 14, 2014 at 01:19 PM
I was initially skeptical about this as well, but frankly I don't have a problem with it. I would be curious about other school districts that have made the change and what follow up studies have been done and how effective it was. Just because "we've always done it that way" doesn't mean it's the best. And it could improve traffic for us early risers.
John Strother January 21, 2014 at 04:15 PM
after rereading this, what child gets up at 5:30 am to catch a bus or walk to school and get there by 7:30 AM? 2 hours to get ready and be at school? I really doubt that. Sounds like a commuter to me. It costs money to change the schedule each time they change it. So changing it once and they won't do it again. I still say that a person bends to the environment or gets ran over. The early bird gets the worm, early to bed , early to rise is still the best advice. late to bed late to rise makes one behind those that strive to live.
Pamela Findley January 23, 2014 at 11:15 PM
Mr. Strother, My child gets up at 5:45 to catch the bus at 6:30 and be at school by 7:15, and she doesn't do nearly the primping as do other high schoolers. Depending on the bus schedule, the kids getting up at 5:30 may be catching the school bus as early as 6:30 for a 7:30 start time.

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