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.

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. Thanks to the many parents, educators and health professionals who helped make this change happen!

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FCPS Bell Schedules

FCPS implemented new bell schedules that reflect the Fairfax County School Board’s adoption of later start times for high school students to benefit health, well-being, and performance.   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 has indicated this is just a start. They want to continue to make adjustments to middle and elementary school schedules in the years ahead. 


  • 73 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at 8 am or later
  • 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 March 2017

SLEEP in Fairfax
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