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SLEEP Bulletin 

Healthy Start Times Mean Better Performance:

In the Classroom, On the Field, and Behind the Wheel

APRIL 2012 

FCPS Sets Goal To Start High Schools
After 8:00 a.m. 

Kudos to the 2012 School Board! On Thursday, April 12th, the school board voted 10 to 2 to set a goal to achieve high school start times after 8 a.m. and directed the Superintendent to study HOW other districts have been able to implement this goal. The Superintendent will report back on June 11th.


ACTION ITEM: Please write to the school board to thank them for supporting student health, well-being and learning and for being willing to work towards a goal to start high schools after 8 a.m. You can email the whole board at this address: SchoolBoardMembers@fcps.edu.   



Mr. Velkoff proposed and Mrs. Smith seconded an amendment in an attempt to strike the goal of starting after 8 a.m. and replace it with one to have students achieve sufficient sleep and to direct the Superintendent to assess how and to assess the impact of such actions on the budget, students, parents, employees, and the community.


This amendment failed in a 4 to 6 vote with 2 board members abstaining. Velkoff, Smith, Strauss and Moon voted in favor of the amendment. Evans, Storck, Schultz, Hynes, McLaughlin, and Reed opposed the amendment. McElveen and Derenak Kaufax abstained.



Once the amendment failed, the board voted on the Evans-Storck resolution. Supporting the goal to achieve high school start times after 8:00 a.m. were Evans, Storck, McElveen, Derenak Kaufax, Schultz, Strauss, Moon, Hynes, McLaughlin, Reed and the student representative, EJ Coleman (who is a non-voting member of the board, but spoke eloquently in support of the importance of the goal for students).



SLEEP commends this forward-thinking board on its recognition of the clear and growing body of research regarding teen sleep and circadian rhythms. This action illustrates the school board's belief in research, science, and data-based decision-making.    


To be clear, the school board did NOT vote to change any school's start times. There will be no change for September 2012, but by setting this goal, the board provides a navigation point that FCPS can now work to achieve. Previous efforts ended in 2009 when the previous board was evenly divided about whether to proceed.


The goal is important and worthwhile. Now, the hard work begins to determine how best to provide healthy and safe options for all students and schedules that also work for other stakeholders.


By directing the Superintendent to identify potential work-arounds from other districts, this board is leading the way and will succeed in taking the next logical step to lift previous barriers by addressing community concerns rather than simply giving up.


  • 71 of 95 counties in Virginia have high schools that start at or later than 8 a.m.


With the leadership of a new board that is committed to reaching this goal, Fairfax County can become a shining example to other large suburban school districts-providing guidance about how to make student health, wellness, and learning a top priority.  


The full wording of the resolution and the amendment are available below. You also can watch live-streaming of the meeting (click here).












       WHEREAS, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) all conclude that adolescents on average need about nine hours of sleep per night for optimal performance, health, and brain development; and


      WHEREAS, most teens experience delayed sleep onset during puberty, and the hormones that help regulate sleep make it difficult for most teens to fall asleep before 11 p.m. or to be alert before 8 a.m.; and


      WHEREAS,  Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) buses begin picking students up at 5:45 a.m. and drop students off at high schools between 6:45 and 7 a.m., at a time when teen bodies typically demand sleep; and


      WHEREAS, the 2010 Fairfax County Youth Survey found that two-thirds of FCPS 8th, 10th, and 12th grade students report sleeping seven hoursor less on an average school night, resulting in a large nightly sleep deficit; and the survey further found that nearly one-third of teen students showed signs of depression; and


      WHEREAS, sleep plays an important role in learning and memory; and sleep debt affects teens' ability to think, perform, and react appropriately; and


      WHEREAS, there is ample evidence that later high school start times result in adolescent students getting more sleep on school nights; and,


      WHEREAS, research shows there are many benefits from later high school start times, including  decreases in teen depression, car crashes, behavior problems, discipline referrals, absenteeism, tardiness, and dropout rates ; and,


     WHEREAS, these benefits serve the Board's Student Achievement Goals that students will "achieve their full academic potential in the core disciplines" (Goal 1.1) and "make healthy and safe life choices" (Goal 2.8), as well as Operational Expectation 7 that "The Superintendent shall establish and maintain a learning environment that is safe, healthful, nondiscriminatory, respectful, and conducive to effective learning";


     THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that, because of the benefits to student health, well-being, and performance, it is a goal of the Fairfax County School Board to achieve high school start times after 8 a.m.so that students are able to obtain a healthy and sufficient amount of sleep, as defined by sleep research and medical experts; and


     BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Fairfax County School Board direct the Superintendent to identify and provide a list of practices in school divisions that start high schools after 8 a.m. -- including successful approaches in school districts that have changed from before to after 8 a.m. and in school districts that have traditionally had later morning start times (including, but not limited to: Arlington County and Loudoun County, VA; Minneapolis, MN; Wilton, CT; and Brevard, FL) -- to determine and report to the School Board by June 2012 on how such school districts:

  • Scheduled elementary, middle and high schools
  • Arranged transportation for elementary, middle and high school students to and from school
  • Scheduled sports and after-school activities for high school students around their start and end times
  • Used successful change management techniques to involve and prepare parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders and the school division for a different schedule, in cases where a shift to later start times has occurred. 



Proposed Amendment
(Amendment Failed in 4 to 6 vote with 2 school board members abstaining)
I move to amend the main motion by (1) revising paragraph #9 by striking the words "to achieve high school start times after 8 a.m. so that students are able to obtain a healthy and sufficient amount of sleep, as defined by sleep research and medical experts" and inserting the words "that students obtain a healthy and sufficient amount of sleep;" and (2) inserting a paragraph #10 as follows:  "BE IT ALSO RESOLVED, that the Fairfax County School Board direct the Superintendent to assess potential actions in support of this goal, including, but not limited to, high school start times after 8 a.m. and bus pick-up times after 6:45 a.m.; and to assess the potential impact of such actions on the budget, students, parents, employees, and the community." (Ted Velkoff)


"Sleep helps your child focus and remember what he or she has learned. Memory is improved with sleep. Sleeping seems to enhance learning as if it were extra practice,iv whether your child is learning an academic subject like algebra, new physical skills like playing a musical instrument,
dance steps, plays in sports, or how to drive a car." (Sleep Is Important To Your Child).



  • 71 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at or later than 8 am, including neighboring Loudoun County whose high schools open at 9 am.
  • Nine hours of sleep is recommended for high school-aged children and, in FCPS, two-thirds are sleeping 7 or fewer hours on school nights.
  • FCPS buses begin picking high school students up as early as 5:45 am and students are dropped off at county high schools between 6:45 and 7:00 am.  With this schedule, students wanting enough sleep must be in bed and asleep by 8:30 or 9:00 pm. 
  • Children in high schools with later morning start times sleep more hours on school nights. The notion that they will stay up later is a myth.
  • School districts with later morning start times have lower teen car crash rates and have seen decreases in student depression. The 2009 Fairfax Youth Survey found that over one-fourth of our teen students reported symptoms of depression.

About Us

SLEEP is a grass-roots organization dedicated to increasing awareness about teen sleep need and improving the bell schedules at FCPS. Sleep is a prerequisite to learning and bell schedules that are in sync with student body clocks improve health, safety, and learning.