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Education Lab Blog

Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

Topic: school start times

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October 27, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Want later school start times for teens? Here’s how it’s done

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia — the 11th largest school district in the country — will delay the starting time for high schools next fall so teens can get more sleep.

The school board voted last Thursday to push back high school start times from 7:20 a.m. to between 8 and 8:10 a.m.

Fairfax middle schools will start at 7:30 a.m., but the district says it will try to get those times closer to 8 a.m.

The shift will cost the district almost $5 million.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended in August  that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m., citing decades of research showing that later start times for adolescents improve health, safety and academic achievement.

Many parents and local sleep experts want later start times in Seattle, too, and the Seattle school board directed the staff this summer to begin a 15-month study of the issue.


Comments | More in News | Topics: school start times, Seattle Public Schools

September 30, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Later high-school start times: How 70 districts have done it

Mounting scientific evidence shows that chronic sleep loss compromises teenagers’ learning, health and safety, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics last month to recommend that middle and high schools start class no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Yet changing bell times has proven so logistically and politically complicated that only about 70 school districts around the country have figured out a way to do it.

Donna Grethen / Op Art

Donna Grethen / Op Art

In July, Seattle’s school board waded into those waters, directing the district’s staff to begin a 15-month study to change school starting times. The district is now accepting applications to participate in a year-long task force on that will include district staff, parents, students and community experts. The deadline to apply is Oct. 6.

To appreciate the magnitude of the work involved, Seattle and other interested school districts should check out what’s been going on in Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, the 11th-largest school district in the country.

Fairfax has been trying to change bell times for more than a decade. The latest push was launched in April, 2012, when the Fairfax board set a goal of having no high school begin before 8 a.m. The board may finally be approaching the finish line with a plan up for a vote on Oct. 23.

To develop its plan, Fairfax hired Children’s National Medical Center’s Division of Sleep Medicine, which published a report in April that examined how the 70 school districts that changed bell times got it done.


Comments | More in News | Topics: school start times, Seattle Public Schools, Teen sleep