The Washington Post is talking about it, Fairfax County is talking about it, and just last night, Lafayette Parish in Louisiana voted to start all of their public schools later.
The Louisiana vote reflects the hopes of Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper to "re-format bell schedules to reflect [a] research-based later starting time for older students." His goal had been to have the high schools start at 8:35 a.m. but there was a last-minute compromise before the vote. Here's what ended up being voted in for fall of 2012:
- Elementary schools move from a start time of 7:55 to 8:10 a.m.
- Middle schools: from 8:35 to 8:50 a.m.
- High Schools: from 7:15 to 7:30 a.m.
Why am I telling you this? Because I want what they're having.
Fairfax County Public Schools voted "yes", on April 12, on a resolution to: "SET A GOAL TO START HIGH SCHOOLS AFTER 8 A.M. AND TO DIRECT THE SUPERINTENDENT TO IDENTIFY AND REPORT ON SCHOOL DIVISIONS WITH LATER STARTING HIGH SCHOOLS." School board member Sandy Evans is careful to point out that this is not a change to any school schedules—just a positive "path of exploration."
Phyllis Payne, who also spoke at the meeting, says, "Hopefully, Fairfax County will become a shining example to other large suburban school districts—providing guidance about how to make student health, wellness, and learning a top priority."
This morning I was really pleased to read in The Washington Post that its editorial board supports the idea of "sensible reform as to when high school students begin classes." In discussing the resolution approved in Fairfax County, the editorial says:
"The reason the idea won't go away is that it makes too much sense. ... Students who are sleep-deprived achieve less and are more likely to suffer from depression or obesity or to have issues with drugs and alcohol. Because adolescents have biorhythms set on a cycle different than those of adults or younger children, the problem is not so easily solved as by telling teenagers to go to bed earlier. Figuring out a way for older students to be in class when they are most alert is to everyone's benefit."
If The Washington Post is endorsing the science and the benefits behind the idea of starting school later in Fairfax County, why not in Montgomery County or Anne Arundel County? Take a look at the editorial here: "Don't hit the snooze again: Fairfax revisits the question of when to start high school classes." Let's start asking our school board why, if a later school start time makes sense for Arlington County, Loudoun County and perhaps Fairfax County, are Maryland schools still hanging on to some of the earliest school start times in the country? Is there a scientific, health, educational reason? Is it in the best interest of school students?
If not—I want what they're having.