Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal

SLEEP Goal:To increase awareness of teen sleep needs and to change Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) middle and high school start times to later in the morning.

The new SCHOOL BOARD will start in January. We thank Board Members: Dan Storck, Patty Reed, Ted Velkoff and Kathy Smith for their service and wish them the best of luck. We welcome new School Board members: Dalia Palchik, Karen Corbett Sanders, Jeannette Hough and Tom Wilson.

Click here to view the video SLEEP created to recognize the School Board for implementing Later High School Start Times.

Click here to hear why doctors support later high school start times

Research shows that later start times correspond with teen sleep needs and improve health, quality of life, and school performance.

Parents concerned about the health and educational impact of too-early high school start times have been working for change for ten years. SLEEP was started in January 2004 by Sandy Evans and Phyllis Payne. Momentum is building for a change, but we need your continuing support to finally accomplish the goal of so many parents, educators and health professionals!

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FCPS Bell Schedules for 2015-2016 School Year

FCPS implemented new bell schedules for the 2015-16 school year that reflect the Fairfax County School Board’s adoption of later start times for high school students to benefit health, well-being, and performance.   Implementation of this Blueprint for Change means that all Fairfax students will have a start time after 8 am for at least ten or eleven of their thirteen years in Fairfax County.

  • All high schools start at 8:10 am (except for Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology which starts at 8:40 a.m.)
  • Students attending secondary schools —including middle school students at secondary schools—begin their school day at 8 a.m. 
  • Students attending middle schools begin their school day at 7:30 am.   FCPS offers a middle school after-school program five days a week that is free of charge.
  • The elementary school timeframe remained unchanged with elementary school students beginning their day between 8 and 9:20 a.m.  Forty elementary schools retained their start time and others shifted by 5 or 10 minutes. There are 8 elementary schools with a start time change of more than 10 minutes and these schools all start at 8:30 a.m. or 8:35 a.m. (a time considered “ideal” by many parents). 
  • The School Board and Superintendent Garza have indicated this is just a start. They want to continue to make adjustments to middle and elementary school schedules in the years ahead. 

A major accomplishment of the FCPS Transportation staff this year is the elimination of extra-early school arrival times, what is known as the "false tier." High school students and many middle school students used to get delivered to school 20-35 minutes prior to the bell. The new plan narrowed that delivery window to 10 or 15 minutes, and gave the extra time in the morning to families rather than having students cool their heels in school buildings. This means that high school buses arrive at school 65-75 minutes later than they did last year. The net effect also helped offset the change for middle schools that shift earlier.

Dr. Garza reported FCPS’ primary goal is to ensure that this important change is positive for all affected – students, families and FCPS employees.  They implemented a smooth and successful start to the 2015-2016 school year!


  • 72 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at 8 am or later (Next year it will be 73!)
  • Adequate sleep improves learning, memory, mood, and performance in school, athletics and other extracurricular activities.
  • Change is cost effective. Brookings Institutution economists report that improved performance is equivalent to two extra months in school and that lifetime earnings increase for students with later start times
  • Teens with later high school start times sleep more than teens in Fairfax County (2 in 3 Fairfax teens are severely sleep deprived - lose 2 or more hours of sleep every night)
  • Students are less likely to fall asleep in class or while doing homework when the school day better coincides with a time of day when students are awake and alert and prepared to learn
  • Teens in districts with later high school start times have fewer teen car crashes (driving drowsy is like driving drunk)
  • Districts with later high school start times have less depression and a decreased need for medications to treat depression (1 in 4 Fairfax teens suffers from symptoms of depression)
  • Later high school start times are associated with decreased drop-out rates and improved attendance 
  • Fewer behavior problems or disciplinary referrals (interruptions to instruction)
  • More sleep means better sports performance and fewer sports injuries
  • Loudoun County high schools start at 9a.m., dismiss at 3:50 p.m. and have competitive sports & activites. Click here to see how their schedule works. ve sports & activites.
    Some of the Many Organizations Which Support Later Morning School Schedules
    Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics Medical Society of Northern Virginia Northern Virginia Clinical Psychologists
    Virginia PTA Fairfax County Council of PTA's  League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area
    Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT) Coalition of the Silence Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform
    FCPS School Health Advisory Committee Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition (9-5-2-1-0 Campaign) 

    American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    Medical Society of Virginia American Thoracic Society Real Food For Kids
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work Fairfax County School Board
    Society of Pediatric Nurses    
    Updated December 23, 2015

SLEEP in Fairfax
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