School districts across the region have been considering whether to change school start times to enable high schoolers to get more sleep. Thursday night, the school board in Fairfax is set to vote on whether to adopt such a plan.
Proponents of the concept say teens aren't getting enough sleep, which can lead to depression, academic difficulties, and car accidents. The American Academy of Pediatrics is now recommending middle and high schools push back start times to 8:30 a.m. or later to align with teens' circadian rhythms, which can shift up to two hours later at the start of puberty, the group said.
But opponents of the concept say delaying school start times would also push back extracurricular activities, homework -- and bedtimes. There are also often costs involved with the changes. Elementary, middle and high schools often use the same buses, so changes at one level could necessitate altered routes and additional drivers -- and higher costs.
Read on to see what's going in in some school districts across the region:
The school board is expected to make a decision on school start times on Thursday. According to Superintendent Karen Garza's proposal, high schools in the county would start 40 to 50 minutes later, at 8 or 8:10 a.m., while middle schools would begin at 7:30 a.m., 15 minutes earlier.
Start times for elementary school students would either remain the same or within five minutes of their current start time.
City of Manassas:
Manassas rolled out new start times this fall, with classes now beginning 50 minutes later for high school students. Elementary schools also open later, while middle schools open earlier.
School officials shelved a proposed change to school start times earlier this year, after determining that the plan would have been too expensive to implement. In addition, many families with elementary school students opposed the plan.
It would have moved high school start times back 50 minutes, middle school back 10 minutes, and elementary school back 30 minutes. It also would have lengthened the elementary school day by 30 minutes.
Anne Arundel County:
High schools in Anne Arundel County currently begin at 7:17 a.m. A task force organized in February has put together four options to change start times. One such option would have high schools starting nearly two hours later. The Board of Education is now asking for input on the proposed changes.
Changes could come statewide for students in Maryland. Earlier this year, Gov. Martin O'Malley asked for a study to find out the best times for that first school bell to ring. The state could impose a start time of 8 a.m. at the earliest for high schools. O'Malley has requested the results of the study by Dec. 31.