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Starting School Later: I Want What They're Having

What do Lafayette, Louisiana and Fairfax, Virginia have in common? Progressive school boards?

The Washington Post is talking about it, Fairfax County is talking about it, and just last night, Lafayette Parish in Louisiana voted to start all of their public schools later.

The Louisiana vote reflects the hopes of Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper to "re-format bell schedules to reflect [a] research-based later starting time for older students."  His goal had been to have the high schools start at 8:35 a.m. but there was a last-minute compromise before the vote. Here's what ended up being voted in for fall of 2012:

  • Elementary schools move from a start time of 7:55 to 8:10 a.m.
  • Middle schools: from 8:35 to 8:50 a.m.
  • High Schools: from 7:15 to 7:30 a.m.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I want what they're having.

Fairfax County Public Schools voted "yes", on April 12, on a resolution to: "SET A GOAL 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." School board member Sandy Evans is careful to point out that this is not a change to any school schedules—just a positive "path of exploration."

Phyllis Payne, who also spoke at the meeting, says, "Hopefully, Fairfax County will become a shining example to other large suburban school districts—providing guidance about how to make student health, wellness, and learning a top priority."

This morning I was really pleased to read in The Washington Post that its editorial board supports the idea of "sensible reform as to when high school students begin classes." In discussing the resolution approved in Fairfax County, the editorial says:

"The reason the idea won't go away is that it makes too much sense. ... Students who are sleep-deprived achieve less and are more likely to suffer from depression or obesity or to have issues with drugs and alcohol. Because adolescents have biorhythms set on a cycle different than those of adults or younger children, the problem is not so easily solved as by telling teenagers to go to bed earlier. Figuring out a way for older students to be in class when they are most alert is to everyone's benefit."

If The Washington Post is endorsing the science and the benefits behind the idea of starting school later in Fairfax County, why not in Montgomery County or Anne Arundel County? Take a look at the editorial here: "Don't hit the snooze again: Fairfax revisits the question of when to start high school classes." Let's start asking our school board why, if a later school start time makes sense for Arlington County, Loudoun County and perhaps Fairfax County, are Maryland schools still hanging on to some of the earliest school start times in the country? Is there a scientific, health, educational reason? Is it in the best interest of school students? 

If not—I want what they're having.

www.StartSchoolLater.net

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Susan Byrne April 20, 2012 at 02:35 PM
There are also studies out that indicate that sleep-deprivation can produce symptoms, particularly social/emotional/behavioral, that mimic ADHD and other disorders. It isn't fair to the kids for us to create a system that overtaxes them and simultaneously place high-stakes performance demands on them.
Joe Thomas April 23, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Did you go to high school Ms. Byrne? If so what time did you go to bed? I bet that it was before midnight and before the invention of the Iphone and computer. Kids today cannot stand to go to bed before they have all of the latest dirt and gossip and to not have that info at the start of the school day is their disgrace. I am told that I went to bed before 10 on school nights and never recall being tired in first period and did just fine, earned good grades, and went on to a successful college career. If parents would lock up these phones when kids come home from school there wouldn't be this phony talk about biorythomes and other such foolishness.
Heather Macintosh April 23, 2012 at 03:19 AM
What time did you start school Mr Thomas?
jam April 24, 2012 at 01:05 AM
Joe, why is it that just because some of us survived (and even thrived) under one system, you think it follows that we should not even consider the merits of an alternative system? I would hope that your successful college career included the value of considering and assessing a wide variety of ideas. That is, after all, the point of education.

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