Testimonies before the School board & Personal Stories
From Fairfax County Parents and Students

(names have been removed for privacy reasons.)

Parents’ Testimony at the January 2009 School Board Budget Hearing

Click on a name to read their testimony

Testimony of Dave Vennergrund

Testimony of Phyllis Payne

Testimony of Liz Griffith

Testimony of Caroline Hemenway

Testimony of Timothy Ruse, M.Ed., RPSGT

Testimony of Lisa Priebe

Testimony of Debra Phillips

Testimony of Roger Cryan

Testimony of Lisa Newmark, Ph.D. (A PowerPoint show. If you do not have PowerPoint, scroll through the show using the arrow keys.)


Parents' Comments

I really think this affects kids.  One of son’s friends was talking to my son in the backseat of the car about someone that was sleeping during the whole first period, and evidently started snoring.  I asked him later what the teacher did.  He said, “Mom, kids sleep all the time in 1st period.  I guess the teacher is used to it, because she doesn’t say much”.

And this was science.  Ack.

I am both a parent of a junior and an English teacher at a local high school, and I can tell you that, without question, my students over the years have demonstrated that they are not yet alert enough at 7:25 a.m. to pay very close attention to the lessons.  It's a serious chore for them to get the energy commitment high enough.  It would be interesting to do a study of student performance in block 1/2 classes versus later classes.  If we are trying to improve test scores and, more importantly, learning, then this seems to be a relatively low cost effort with a big payoff.

An 8:25 - 3:30 school day makes a lot more sense for both middle and high school kids.

I am in support of changing the bell schedule/SLEEP for high school students and middle school students.  I am a parent of four children -- ages 5, 9, 12, and 15.  My 15 year-old has sleep problems because off the bell schedule.  My younger children naturally wake early -- especially the 5 year old -- and could easily go to school earlier than they do now.
Is your plan to flip the schedule with the elementary school kids?  That would make sense.  If the issue with flipping is that the older students have after school activities, perhaps the "after" school activities could become "before" school activities instead.

My 15 year-old high school student gets up at 5:50 AM in order to get to school.  He gets in bed by 8:30 PM at the latest at night because he knows he needs the sleep, but that is so early for him that he often finds it hard to fall asleep.  He really gets desperate about his inability to fall asleep early enough to give him the needed sleep -- even to the point of asking for allergy medicine (which makes him sleepy) even when his allergies are not bothering him -- we refuse, of course.  He usually has trouble waking up and is sleepy at school.  In both middle and high school, he has fallen asleep during his first period class.  This is a straight A student -- not a slacker.  His pediatrician discussed this situation with us just last week.  The pediatrician agrees that the bell schedule should be reversed -- with adolescents going to school later and elementary students going earlier.  Meanwhile, the doctor's only recommendation for my son was to try to make up for the lost sleep on weekends.  My son is not able to sleep in long enough on weekends, however, because he has gotten used to getting up early during the week -- sleeping in for him is sleeping until maybe 7:00 AM instead of 5:50 AM.

I will be glad to join in your efforts!

I am very interested in having school times starting later.  There are studies that have been done that show that junior and senior high students tend to have their sleep cycles afftected from hormones and therefore don't really fall asleep as early.  When my son's schedule has

courses at 7:20 he is half asleep and his grades show that.  The barrier I've been told is the lack of school buses.

You bet!  My son gets up between 5:30 and 6pm to catch a 6:30 bus for a 7:20 start time. UGH!

He can barely think at that time of day.

Count me in!

A 12-year-old getting up at 6 a.m. is ridiculous. It's also too dark in the morning to even walk safely to the bus stop this time of year. 

I think it's ridiculous for any child to have to leave their home so early in the morning.  Quality of life needs to be restored for these children and their families. Let me know what I can do.

I reside in Mason District.  Having been a juvenile probation officer, I know that one of the biggest factors of truancy is the time.  Kids just can't get up at those ridiculous hours (I can't get up at that hour!).  Once they are late because they have overslept, it is pretty easy not to go at all, especially if there is no parent to drive and/or sign a student in.  

I know some kids who go to TJ and have their parents drive them on the way to work rather than get up early to get to their base school where they wait for the TJ bus.  They don't look half as exhausted as the Woodson/Frost kids.  Granted their day ends later but on par with the elementary school kids.

The afternoon alone time is much more dangerous than morning alone time, especially since after school, they have had school time to hook up with their friends and make plans. 

My kids' bus stop is right on Little River Turnpike where there is no sidewalk and a very small right turn lane.  It just isn't safe for them to be standing there in the pitch dark waiting for a bus.  It is an accident waiting to happen.  FCPS have always used the argument of lack of bus drivers and the need for them to double up to make all the school routes as their main reason to oppose changing the times. 

I am  definitely FOR later start times for middle and high school students!!!  My daughter (8th grade) gets sick with bronchitis (or pneumonia last year) by mid October every year because she is so run down by getting up at 5:30 to catch her bus at 6:10 for a 45 minute bus ride to her GT middle school, which starts at 7:20 because they share buses with the high school next door.  Next year, our high school will be a little better because the bus comes at 6:35, and it's a shorter bus ride because it is our neighborhood high school, and it also starts at 7:20. I think a later time will help her health and school performance - she is really struggling this year because she can't get her work done since she is too tired and doesn't feel well.  Our focus is just getting her through 8th grade, with OK grades -- I know that is not a good attitude, but that is where we are and we are hoping that high school will be better, especially since they have block scheduling (our middle school doesn't and I think it should).  My 11th grader fared only marginally better in middle school than my daughter is doing now.  I think, he is ok, now, with the schedule since he is almost 17 and because he has always adapted better than she has, but I'm sure he would appreciate a later start also.


I have been doing my own campaign of letter writing to the school board and elected officials on this subject for many years.  I have collected some research materials that may be useful, and I will be glad to help with your petition if I can.  Please let me know what needs doing.

I am interested in SLEEP.  The problem is compounded in our area by heavy traffic that slows buses, and kids who are bused to GT Centers often live farther from the schools.  My son is only in elementary school now, 4th grade, but has to get on the bus one hour before school starts!  He's spending almost 2 hours a day on the bus, making for a very long school day.  Combined with lots of homework, there is little time to be a kid.  Naturally, we are not looking forward to the early start time of middle school.

I am interested in the SLEEP effort. My daughter has to get up at 5:30 and has been in classes for a half hour by the time my elementary-school son has to get up. Sleep deprivation is becoming a major problem. Please add me to your list of interested people.

Finally someone has figured it out.  I agree that during the adolescent period that Fairfax County clock does not work for my 13 year old.  Especially when he was fed from an elementary school which did not start their day until 9:20AM.  It was and is still a very difficult adjustment for both of us.  I am definitely interested in changing to later hours. 

I think this is a GREAT idea. The research on teens and sleep and functioning all back it up, as do the more practical matters of teens being on their own from 2 or 3 p.m. onward while parents are at work. 

While my 7th grader has adjusted well to the Kilmer schedule and is extremely responsible when she is on her own after school for a short while, I am concerned about how she'll do when she starts needing to sleep in... right now, that hasn't been a problem. I also think it's appalling that high schoolers have to be up even earlier. It really makes no sense.  FCPS should just flip the elem., middle, and high school schedules around.  I anticipate that my 4th grader will have a very difficult time when he's in middle school getting up so early.

Thanks for the opportunity to "vote" on this issue.

Please list me as another parent who strongly supports changing the bus schedule so that our teens can get enough sleep.  Every study on the topic argues that high schoolers simply aren't wired to be early morning persons, and forcing them to get up at 5 a.m. to make the bus is harming them, perhaps even over the long run.

Count my husband and I in on your campaign:  At present we have two children who awaken in the dark and drag themselves off to school.  My husband drives them so that they can get a few extra minutes of sleep and because our bus stop is right on Little River Turnpike -- the trip to the stop and standing there in the dark is just too dangerous for us to contemplate.  I recall starting HS at 7:50 and thinking that was way too early.  We had an open campus and I opted out of electives if it meant I could sleep in in the mornings.

My son is a senior this year, and while I have no other children, I am all for changing the times for middle school children.  Even if a child gets a good 8 hours sleep a night, they still could use the extra time in the AM to get additional sleep, do homework or whatever.  A later starting time may be an incentive for parents, too, who have to get to work at a certain time and leave at a certain time to pick up children from school, daycare, etc.  If the change is in the interest of improving school performance...I say do it!   Too bad high school students don't have that option!!

Good luck.

I have complained about the school start time for high schoolers for some time.  I have a son in high school and a daughter in elementary school.  My son struggles to get up in the morning because he's usually up a lot later than my daughter, then I wonder how he struggles to handle classes that are now even longer due to the block scheduling. Please count me in on trying to change the time.

Thanks for trying to do something about it and just not complaining like I've done.

YES!  It's about time FCPS and the school board took this issue seriously.  We would be glad to support this effort IF the school board is going to do something more than just study it again like they did sev yrs ago, only to conclude it would cost too much re bus transport.

    An example of the lack of common sense:  last yr. AHS had a committee looking at why so many students arrived late and what to do about it.  They didn't need a study committee--the reason is obvious to parents and students:  (1) difficulty of getting students awake and moving in the a.m.; (2) terrible road access/traffic jams at AHS because so many students are arriving at the last minute.

Yes we are very interested in having bell times changed especially for high school kids. We have 1st hand evidence every day that high schoolers go to sleep later and wake up later naturally.

Is it true that the earlier bells are due to sports activities in the afternoons? Can't they just be reversed and practice etc be early in the morning and then have classes? Same for club meetings and play practice.

My children are in 8th grade and 10th at the moment.  Sleep, or the lack thereof, has been a constant issue since they started junior high.  

I know sports are an issue .My son played football for a while (very time-consuming) , but now has switched to lacrosse, which he loves. High shcool teams are a big part of the identity of American schools. However, as someone who grew up in England, where school starts later, and sports are important, but do not rule a child's life, I think we need to get a different perspective.  Shorter practices would be fine.  Why run the kids ragged for three hours? Design a shorter more efficient work-out and save their precious energy for the games.

My husband and I would be interested in signing a petition that calls for a later start time for middle and high school students.  Our family of five knows first hand what a sacrifice (of sleep and sanity) it takes in order to get to school on time each day.  We can see from our experience that a later start time would benefit our children and our village's children in the long run.  Thank you.

My son and I would love later school starts.  I drive him to school so we don't have to get up at 5 a.m. to make the bus on time, and his "morning workout" for sports has to begin at 6, so we wind up rising between 5 and 5:30 a.m. at least twice a week to get him there anyway. Between rising at or before dawn and after-work/school meetings and evening/night sports matches, we lose a lot of sleep. He's exhausted and so am I.

I believe that changing the start times of middle schools and high schools is probably the least expensive and most effective change we can make in schools to improve test scores, increase learning, improve attendance, and decrease discipline issues.

Thank you for getting the ball rolling on this effort. I believe that we will have great support from parents, most teachers and administrators, and students.

My son will be a freshman at Annandale HS this coming fall.  I am in favor of later start times for adolescents.  Also, later start times mean later end times, meaning less time at home alone after school before parents return from work.

The FCPS Task Force recommended this change in 1998. Why isn’t the School Board acting on the recommendation?!  It’s more than irresponsible—It’s reprehensible.  How can anyone think it’s a good idea for children to get up so early!

I am in favor of a later start time for middle/high school students in Fairfax County.  I currently have an eighth grader at Lake Braddock that gets up each morning at 6:00 and leaves the house by 6:45 to catch the bus.  He walked in the dark to the bus stop for most of the fall/winter.  We called transportation to see if the bus could come closer to the 3 children that walk to the stop, but they would not go the extra 1/3 of a mile that it took them off their scheduled course, so all three of the kids walked and stood at the stop in the dark for several months. We all had other children at home still asleep that attend elementary school.  If the schools started even 1/2 an hour later this might alleviated.  I am sure many children wait at stops in the dark.  The additional sleep would also be beneficial, as the students often have projects and other extracurricular activities that keep them up into the night. Thank you for your consideration.

SLEEP in Fairfax
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