SLEEP History & Background

Links to Fairfax County and other information to document SLEEP's effort to start school later in Fairfax County, Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) bell schedules, school board members, and information about the history of later start times in Fairfax.
Previous SLEEP website annoucements are available at the bottom of the page:

Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) sites:

FCPS Discussions on Changing Start times, 1998-2003:

SLEEP Activities :


    Previous Announcements:


    September 2013

    Help Share Information: Increasing awareness about benefits of later morning start times to the health, well-being, safety, and performance of our children is one common theme of successful efforts to shift start times.

    You can help. Download and copy:

     Make 25-50 copies of the flyer and hand them out in front of the school.

    Please email to let us know about your efforts.
    * 2 pages, meant to be copied back-to-back. If this is cost-prohibitive, please feel free to distribute page 1 only.


    School Board Resolution Recognizes Research and Sets Goal

    To help the school board, SLEEP volunteers prepared a research report about districts that start schools after 8:00 a.m. and provided information about change management and elements of success from other districts that shifted start times.

    • 72 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at or after 8:00 a.m.  
    • Fairfax County students start boarding buses at 5:45 AM. High schools start at 7:20 AM.
    • Loudoun County high schools start at 9:00 a.m. and dismiss at 3:50 p.m. It is possible to have later dismissal times and competitive sports & activities.
    • Districts with start times like ours have significantly higher teen car crash rates.
    • 1 in 4 Fairfax teens suffers from symptoms of depression.
    • 2 in 3 Fairfax teens are severely sleep deprived (lose 2 or more hours of sleep every school night).
    • Teens with later school start times sleep more than teens in Fairfax County.
    • Adequate sleep improves learning, memory, mood, and performance in school, athletics and other extracurricular activities.

    Children’s National Medical Center Developing Blueprint for Change

    FCPS is partnering with health and policy experts from Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC). CNMC will work with FCPS leadership and stakeholders to develop a "Blueprint for Change". Visit the new website from CNMC:

    Please remain engaged and encourage friends and neighbors to join our efforts by signing the petition or volunteering to help. 

    Join other organizations on record supporting the positive impact that later morning school schedules have on teen sleep:  

    • Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
    • Medical Society of Northern Virginia
    • Virginia PTA
    • Fairfax County Council of PTA's 
    • League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area
    • Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT)
    • FCPS School Health Advisory Committee  
    • Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform
    • Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition (9-5-2-1-0 Campaign) 
    • Real Food For Kids
    • Coalition of the Silence

    Sleep Night  

    Winning photo entry by Marisa Ross

    2012: Year in Review

    Click the link above for a summary of progress made during 2012. Highlights include:

    School Board Resolution Recognizes Research and Sets Goal

    To help the school board, SLEEP volunteers prepared a research report about districts that start schools after 8:00 a.m. and provided information about change management and elements of success from other districts that shifted start times.

    • 72 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at or after 8:00 a.m.  

    Sleep Night was held at Annandale High School on February 26…

    Dr. Judith Owens, Director of Sleep Medicine at Children's National Medical Center did a great job walking the audience through the medical reasons why getting enough sleep is so important. "We need sleep to facilitate memory and to help us with executive functions, such as the ability to organize our thoughts, to moderate our emotions and to be goal-directed. These executive functions are developing most rapidly during the teenage years." Dr. Owens presentation was followed by a lively panel discussion and dialogue with attendees.

    Read the whole story , including the news that the Virginia Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (VA AAP) announced its support of later morning start times for high school students. VA AAP joins other organizations on record supporting the positive impact that later morning school schedules have on teen sleep:  

    • Medical Society of Northern Virginia,  
    • Virginia PTA,  
    • Fairfax County Council of PTA's,  
    • League of Women Voters-Fairfax Area,  
    • Fairfax County Federation of Teachers (FCFT),  
    • FCPS School Health Advisory Committee,  
    • Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform,  
    • Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition (9-5-2-1-0 Campaign),  
    • Real Food For Kids, and  
    • Coalition of the Silence.

    Announcement August 2012

    SLEEP Needs Volunteers

    We need your help.

    SLEEP volunteers contacted other districts and prepared a research report as well as information about change management and elements of success from other districts .

    One element of success is a focus on increasing awareness among stakeholders to ensure that the community is aware of the benefits of this change to the health, well-being, and learning of our children.

    This is where you come in . You can help increase awareness by distributing the 2012 Back-to-school flyer at back to school night at the school(s) in your neighborhood.

    To help with this important community outreach, simply make 25-50* copies of the flyer and hand them to parents and elected officials (who will likely be shaking hands) in front of the school.

    The schedule for back to school nights can be found here:

    Please email to let us know that you are able to help out.

    * The flyer is two pages and is meant to be copied back-to-back. If this is cost-prohibitive, please feel free to distribute page 1 only.

    School Board Resolution Recognizes Research

    In April, the school board officially recognized the clear and growing body of research regarding teen sleep and circadian rhythms with a resolution to set a goal to start high schools in Fairfax after 8:00 AM.

    High Schools To Expand Opportunities for Student Sleep in 2012-2013

    If you want your child to be able to take advantage of online learning opportunities to opt out of first period during 2012-2013, write to your guidance counselor and principal to request a schedule change. The school board directed the Superintendent to permit this option, but we have seen no official communication about the options to allow students to opt out of first block.

    For more details, please see our February Announcement on the “ History ” page. The Superintendent agreed to allow students to opt out of a first block class or classes to gain much-needed sleep. To read the new regulation click here .

    Students must be able to meet graduation requirements and can do so in a couple of different ways, including replacing an in-person class with an online class, or taking a college level course at a local college (dual enrollment). These options were available last year.

    What’s new is that principals may permit some student choice about whether to have an “off-campus” course scheduled in a first or last block of the usual 7-period schedule. Students may also be able to schedule a study hall during a first block.

    To learn more about the FCPS online campus, please visit:


    Announcement June 2012

    School Board Creates a Work Group on School Start Times

    The School Board created a work group to develop a request for proposal (RFP), and to then guide the work of a consultant. Chair Janie Strauss appointed Sandy Evans, Patty Reed, Ryan McElveen, and Ted Velkoff to serve on this school board committee. Many of the school board members seemed to be leaning toward hiring a firm with change management expertise, which was one of the recommendations of the Transportation Task Force in 2008. The details will be proposed by the newly-formed working group.

    In April, the school board officially recognized the clear and growing body of research regarding teen sleep and circadian rhythms with a resolution to set a goal to start high schools in Fairfax after 8:00 AM. At the June 11 work session, the school board began the hard work of determining how best to provide healthy and safe options for all students and schedules that also work for other stakeholders.

    In an effort to allow school board members to better prepare for their discussion yesterday, SLEEP volunteers contacted other districts and prepared a research report as well as information about change management and elements of success from other districts.


    Read the full story by clicking on the headline .

    Announcement April 2012

    FCPS Sets Goal To Start High Schools After 8 a.m.

    Kudos to the 2012 School Board! On Thursday, April 12th, the school board voted 10 to 2 to set a goal to achieve high school start times after 8 a.m. and directed the Superintendent to study HOW other districts have been able to implement this goal. The Superintendent will report back on June 11th.

    For complete announcement, click the headline above.

    Washington Post’s April 19 th Editorial Supports FCPS School Board’s Resolution

    "The reason the idea won’t go away is that it makes too much sense. Every bit of scientific research and experience shows that teenagers have different sleep patterns and that later start times are beneficial to students, schools and the community."

    To read the entire editorial, click on the headline.

    National Sleep Awareness Week March 5-11

    Share Information with Parents, Teachers, Students, and Principals in your School

    How can you help increase awareness about the sleep needs of children and teens?

    • Share this fact sheet about the importance of sleep with parents in your school (Virginia Academy of Sleep Medicine, Sleep Is Important To Your Child ).
    • Declare Monday, March 12, (the first day of daylight savings time) a “Pajama Day”, so students and educators can squeeze in a few extra minutes of sleep that morning,
    • Ask teachers to have a test- and homework-free day on Monday, and
    • Join our email list. (Scroll up to the box above to sign up.)

    Announcement February 2012

    High Schools To Expand Opportunities for Student Sleep in 2012-2013

    SLEEP’s requests to the school system to allow more students to opt out of first block classes dovetail nicely with FCPS goals to expand online learning and the use of technology in our school system.

    On February 13, 2012, the Superintendent agreed to change the existing regulation on a full-day schedule to allow students to opt out of a first block class or classes to gain much-needed sleep.

    Students must be able to meet graduation requirements and can do so in a couple of different ways, including replacing an in-person class with an online class, or taking a college level course at a local college (dual enrollment). These options are available now.

    What’s new is that principals may permit some student choice about whether to have an “off-campus” course scheduled in a first or last block of the usual 7-period schedule.

    The FCPS Leadership Team will be working to expand online opportunities, but cautioned that the expansion of such opportunities must be done slowly to ensure efficiency and high quality coursework. To learn more about the FCPS online campus, please visit:

    Virginia Department of Education has approved many online course providers, but we are told that FCPS doesn’t permit students to select these courses at this time. ( ).

    It is a well-kept secret, but it also is possible to select a study hall in place of a 7th class. Whether it is possible to request a first-block study hall is still being debated.

    Phyllis Payne’s letter to the school board and the School Board’s official “ Next Steps ” provide additional insight into what took place during the work session and why SLEEP has been advocating for this increased flexibility even though it will only help a small number of students. This isn’t a solution to the public health problem of sleep loss or too early school start times, but the options for a sane schedule have inched forward for a few Fairfax families in 2012-2013.

    Take Home Message for Parents:

    If you want your child to be able to take advantage of this for 2012-2013, ACT NOW. Write to your guidance counselor and principal ASAP about how to help your child change his or her schedule for the fall. Guidance Counselors may or may not have heard about this opportunity. Thus far, we have seen no official communication about the changes to this regulation.

    January 2012: Testimonies at the School Board's Budget Hearing

    SLEEP co-founder Phyllis Payne's testimony at the Monday, January 30, 2012 School Board Budget Hearing:

    My name is Phyllis Payne. I’m speaking on behalf of more than 9,000 members of SLEEP who have signed our petition asking for high school start times after 8:15 in the morning. We believe working toward healthy school start times for all Fairfax students should be a priority. Neighbors in Arlington, Loudoun, Falls Church, and Alexandria have all found a way to provide start times after 8:00 a.m. while maintaining competitive and vibrant extra-curricular activities and reasonable start times for elementary students.SLEEP is excited to have an opportunity to work with the 2012 school board to fix the long-standing problem of sleep deprivation fostered by the very early school start times. Read more….. [click here for the full text of Phyllis' testimony] .

    Dr. Janet Laubgross, a clinical psychologist and member of the SLEEP leadership team also spoke and said:

    "I think it is clear that our teenagers are sleep deprived, and that school start times contribute to that deprivation. I would like to talk about the mental health effects of this sleep deprivation on adolescents by providing a quote from Andrew Fuligini, Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry & Biobehavioral Sciences: “Among adolescents, daily feelings of anxiety, depression, and fatigue are the most consistent psychological outcomes of obtaining less sleep at night.”... [Click here for a link to Dr. Laubgross' testimony].


    • 71 of 95 counties in Virginia start high schools at or later than 8 am, including neighboring Loudoun County whose high schools open at 9 am.
    • Nine hours of sleep is recommended for high school-aged children and, in FCPS, two-thirds are sleeping 7 or fewer hours on school nights.
    • FCPS buses begin picking high school students up as early as 5:45 am and students are dropped off at county high schools between 6:45 and 7:00 am.  With this schedule, students wanting enough sleep must be in bed and asleep by 8:30 or 9:00 pm. 
    • Children in high schools with later morning start times sleep more hours on school nights. The notion that they will stay up later is a myth.
    • School districts with later morning start times have lower teen car crash rates and have seen decreases in student depression.  More than 1 of 4 teen students in Fairfax report symptoms of depression.

    November 18, 2011 -SCHOOL BOARD ELECTION:

    Congratulations to the winners of the local school board election and thank you to all candidates

    Please read the next school board members’ responses to the SLEEP questionnaire (below). Of the 12 who will serve starting in 2012, 10 said they would vote for “a new FCPS policy to require that high schools start after 8:00 a.m. in the morning”, and 8 said they would be willing to “put forth a motion to vote on such a policy.”

    Effective school board members will build consensus by resolving barriers rather than dismissing them as impossible to solve. SLEEP recognizes the importance of defining solutions to address legitimate concerns that have been used to deny healthy school start times to our students. As always, we are looking for volunteers to help with our grassroots effort.

    Districts that start high schools later, like Arlington and Loudoun, have found ways to provide competitive sports and extra-curricular activities for high school students, satisfy teacher concerns about altered work schedules and commuting patterns, and minimize disruptions to elementary and middle school families.

    At-large School Board Members (countywide representatives)

    Ilryong Moon
    Ryan McElveen
    Ted Velkoff

    DISTRICT School Board Members (who represents people in your magisterial district ).
    Megan McLaughlin (Braddock District)
    Janie Strauss (Dranesville District)
    Patricia Hynes (Hunter Mill District)
    Tammy Kaufax (Lee District)
    Sandy Evans (Mason District)
    Dan Storck (Mt. Vernon District)
    Patty Reed (Providence District)
    Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield District)
    Kathy Smith (Sully District)

    May 2011: Testimony at the School Board's Budget Hearing

    In her recent testimony at the school board's budget hearing, Michele Menapace, former FCCPTA President, states: I ask that you make a commitment to evaluating the instructional, emotional, and financial impacts of high school start times that are simply too early. How much remediation or intervention must be done because students simply can't learn at 7am? How much is it costing to support disciplined students whose impulsive behavior has a known connection to sleep deprivation? Later start times are better for teens AND for the school system's bottom line.

    In her recent testimony at the school board's budget hearing, SLEEP co-founder Phyllis Payne stated:I believe you can provide a healthy school environment and save money, too. Studies continue to show a connection between healthy high school start times and positive outcomes for students, including some benefits that could decrease costs for the school system and other benefits that would decrease costs for families and the community. A study just published shows that delaying school starting time by one hour could enhance students' cognitive performance by improving their attention level and increasing their rate of performance, as well as reducing their mistakes and impulsivity. The study confirms previous findings that teens with later morning start times do sleep longer each night. How much are we spending to teach to sleeping students?

    SLEEP is proud to be part of the Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition. The Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition seeks to engage hundreds of community partners in a shared effort to encourage children to adopt healthier habits where they live, learn, work and play.

    The Coalition has developed a simple but important message for health which is beneficial for all children, called 9-5-2-1-0 for Health. This message communicates five key behaviors which promote healthy weight and overall good health for children:

    • 9 - Get at least nine hours of sleep per day.
    • 5 - Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day
    • 2 - Limit screen time to 2 hours or less outside of school
    • 1 - Get at least 1 hour of physical activity per day
    • 0 - Eliminate sugar-added beverages
    • Check out Northern Virginia Healthy Kids Coalition's new website, Tipping the Scales, at

    March 7-13, 2011 National Sleep Awareness WeekŪ!

    This is an annual public education and awareness campaign to promote the importance of sleep. The week begins with the announcement of the National Sleep Foundation's Sleep in America poll results and ends with the clock change to Daylight Saving Time, where Americans lose one hour of sleep. The Foundation's Sleep Care Center members host events in their local communities throughout the week, providing sleep education and screening to the public. Click here for more information.

    February 2011

    2011 is an election year for school board in Fairfax. A new school board will be elected in November and take office in January 2012. Please talk to all candidates about the importance of later start times for our community. Ask friends to sign the petition--10,000 would be a nice round number for SLEEP in 2011. We need volunteers to help with a variety of activities" .

    Phyllis Payne, co-founder of SLEEP testified for our almost 9,000 members and the 175,000 students in Fairfax County Public Schools. At the January 24 School Board Budget Hearing, she told the school board that they have the POWER TO SAVE LIVES as studies continue to show that later high school start times:

    1. Decrease car crashes
    2. Decrease depression and the need for medication
    3. Help more children graduate (a metaphorical life-saver).
    Read Phyllis' complete testimony here

    McLean High School's SLEEP Pyramid Coordinator Tom Van Wazer's also spoke before the Fairfax County School Board:

    "We all know that there are 100's of different ways to arrange bus schedules. Given the near-continuous stream of new evidence confirming the pernicious effects of sleep deprivation on teenagers, I urge the Board to ensure that the transportation consultant identifies a bus schedule that lowers cost AND helps as many high school students as possible by providing more reasonable high school start times."

    Read Tom's complete testimony here

    Talk to your children about sleep. Ask them what time they are falling asleep. There is a significant gap between the amount of time children sleep and the amount of time parents think our children are sleeping. Most teens need about 9 hours per night. If your teen feels very sleepy during the day, talk to your child's doctor about other strategies to help cope with the Fairfax schedule.

    December 2010:   Click on this the link to read Huadu Xiao's excellent letter to the Fairfax

    Times - here is an excerpt:

    Fairfax County high school classes have been starting at 7:20 a.m. for more than 10 years. High school students average less than seven hours of sleep a day, and chronically suffer from a lack of sleep. A variety of forces -- including Fairfax-based SLEEP (Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal), members of the School Board and dismayed parents -- have been trying for years to correct the situation. So far, they have failed. Of course there are many excuses not to change the absurd schedule, but students deprived of adequate time to sleep, to me, is a gross violation of their basic human rights.
    I have two 17-year-olds and one middle school student in Fairfax County Public Schools. For the two, I see them suffer every day;

    October 2010

    Fairfax County Releases Youth Risk Behavior Survey:
    Students in 8th, 10th, and 12th Grades Are Sleep Deprived

    Read the full article here! 

    September 2010 --

    SLEEP has asked the School Board and Dr. Dale to take immediate action to improve a Request for Proposals (RFP) recently issued by the FCPS Transportation Department. Bidders should be asked to:

    • Consider student needs, including the biological imperative for sleep.
    • Improve the use of the existing MapNet software, including data entry (e.g., actual miles per hour on primary roadways in both the morning and the afternoon in both directions - with traffic and against traffic). The current data entered is an estimated average which keeps the software from being able to accurately plan optimal routes.

    Last year, SLEEP offered free technical assistance and gave FCPS software designed to model how various start times would affect the need for buses. We haven't received an official rejection, but FCPS has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) and is looking to hire another contractor to help provide school bus routing analysis and optimization.

    It is clear that it isn't an effort to improve the bell schedules for students. To read the rest of the announcement, please click here.

    September 2010 Announcement

    Fueled by accumulating research showing that adolescent bodies are designed to sleep late and that delaying school start times - even by just 30 minutes - makes a huge difference in how well teens feel and perform, an increasing number of schools around the country are ringing morning bells later than they used to. Read more here:

    SLEEP needs your help  to continue to fight for reasonable and healthy bell schedules that maintain after-school sports and extra-curricular activities. If our neighbors can find a way, Fairfax can find a way to do this for our children from Kindergarten through 12th grade.

    Transitioning from summer to school:
    To help your child get their sleep schedule back on track before school starts, the National Sleep Foundation provides coping strategies children may use to try to minimize their sleep loss as they adjust their body clocks to school schedules this fall. Teens in Fairfax may find these strategies still leave them significantly short of the recommended 9 hours of sleep per night due to the very early bus pick-up times.

    Experts advise teens who are exhausted by very early school start times to:

    • Nap during the day for no more than 30 minutes and to do so prior to 5 p.m.
    • Sleep in on the weekends to help deal with sleep debt that adds up during the week, but try to wake no later than 9 a.m. to limit the difference between school-day and weekend wake times to maintain a sleep routine.

    June 2010 Announcement

    The body of evidence supporting the need for later school start times is strong and growing!

    Breaking news: Study in Virginia shows real safety advantage for communities that choose healthy school start times for teens:
    Decreased car accident rate: Read about it in Discovery News "Early School Start Time Linked to Teen Car Accidents"

    SLEEP is reorganizing and reenergizing! Sandy Evans was elected to serve on the School Board, and is no loger a co-chair of SLEEP. Please join us in welcoming our new co-chair, Rona Ackerman. If you are interested in volunteering to help during 2010-2011, please email us. Over the next year, there will be some excellent opportunities to advocate for healthier start times in our schools. Please let us know if you'd like to be part of our team of volunteers. As always, we welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and assistance with regard to next steps and strategies for moving forward.

    May 2010: Healthy Start Times Can Save Money

    Old myths resurface in FCPS response to budget questions, Phyllis Payne testifies before the school board. Tom VanWazer decries staff’s tepid response to SLEEP’s proposal for potential savings.

    The testimony refers to work SLEEP has been doing this year:

    November: SLEEP representatives met with the COO Fairfax County schools to discuss an opportunity to save more money.

    December: Steve Hunt, former School Board member and system’s analyst gave the school system one of the software tools that he designed for SLEEP. The software models bus utilization and shows that the first tier is still overburdened—the changes that staff made last year (moving several middle schools closer to 8 a.m.) helped decrease the number of buses on the road, but moving a few high schools to 8 a.m. would save even more. This tool has already been tested and shown to be of value.

    March: Megan McLaughlin testifies, “Later Start Times” for our high school students will help ALL students, including varsity athletes. And just like our neighboring school systems which offer later start-times AND varsity sports, so too can FCPS.” According to Phyllis Payne, “SLEEP is hearing from parents at [middle schools with new, later start times] that 30 minutes has made a huge difference in the health, well-being, happiness, and performance of their children. And, the parents are happy to be sleeping longer as well.” To learn more about how much (or how little) sleep Fairfax teens get or how they feel during school, please watch this short video

    April: SLEEP leadership reports to Board of Supervisors, “We don't need money. In fact, . . . [this proposal] can once again save money [for the school system] AND help students. ...We feel strongly that Fairfax should provide the same learning opportunities that our neighbors in Loudoun, Arlington, Falls Church, and Alexandria already have. High schools in these districts all start after 8 a.m. and Loudoun high schools start at 9 a.m.”


    March 2010: National Sleep Awareness Week - How much sleep are Fairfax County high school students getting? How do they feel in school?

    1. Find answers in this excellent video documentary (<5 minutes) created by Mohommad Tavakoli while he was a student in Fairfax County Public Schools

    2. Science shows that the old adage “practice makes perfect” should be replaced with a new adage, “sleep makes perfect.”

    Why? The brain continues “practicing” while you sleep. Athletes who shortchange sleep, may be short-circuiting their training and performance. Read more about how findings have a direct application to athletes’ training schedules in “Does ‘Secret’ Advantage Accrue?”

    3. Enjoy this 60-second advertisement for SLEEP: this 30-second one from the Olympics:

    SLEEP kicked off National Sleep Awareness Week with testimony before the school board. Click here to read the speeches of Megan McLaughlin and Phyllis Payne.

    Also, join us in congratulating SLEEP co-founder Sandy Evans on being elected to the Fairfax County School Board.

    October 2009: Providence School Board Candidate Questionnaire Responses, The Nov. 3 elections include the race for School Board in Providence District (to fill the seat of Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, who stepped down in June). Three candidates, Patty Reed, John Jennison and Chris DeCarloare running for this seat, See the candidates' answers to our SLEEP questionnaire on where they stand on teen sleep needs and later high school start times. Please take their views on this important issue into account when casting your ballot.

    September 2009: SLEEP Teams with Teachers’ and Parents’ Groups to Demand Public Input on Superintendent Review and Contract Extension - SLEEP has joined forces with the two largest teachers’ unions and a long list of other parent advocate groups (including FairGrade, FairfaxCAPS, FCAG, Zero Tolerance Reform) to demand more public input and community involvement in evaluating the performance of the Superintendent and on extending his contract. See the joint press release.

    Please watch and share this short video from McLean High School graduate ‘09 and filmaker, Mohammed Tavakoli. (Click on the white arrow on the bottom right to start the video.) Top notch, local pediatrician, Dr. Jim Baugh explains teen sleep science. Mohammed talks with students about their experiences with too early start times and SLEEP co-founder explains why later start times should be a priority for Fairfax County. The video was supplied by Mohammad Tavakoli and the Professional TV Production program at the Fairfax Academy for Communication and the Arts.

    May 11, 2009: SLEEP High School Pilot Plans: Move Times Later, Save Millions to Reduce Class Size - SLEEP has developed pilot proposals that would move some high school start times and save millions of dollars for the FCPS budget. These millions could be used to reduce class size and retain more excellent teachers. We would like to see FCPS consider these plans.

    Both of our proposals continue current levels of service to and from TJ, magnet schools, and GT centers.

    “Pool Pilot”: This proposal keeps ALL elementary schools at their current times and moves only 9 high schools and one middle school to between 7:50 and 8:30 am. (Click link below to see details.) Using a software tool developed by former School Board member Steve Hunt, SLEEP estimates this pilot would SAVE about $11 million, enough to avoid a half-student increase in class size (and about $6 million more in savings than FCPS’ current proposal, I-5). The name refers to the fact that it allows swim/dive practice times to remain intact, because it moves only those high schools that currently have later swim/dive practices at RECenters. It would replace staff’s Iteration 5, which moves 122 schools--most of them later--including 47 that change by 20 minutes or more. (FCPS staff, like SLEEP, found that moving schools later in the morning reduced bus costs. Unlike SLEEP, they chose to move elementary schools and middle schools.)

    “I-5-Plus-5 Pilot”: If staff’s latest draft (Iteration 5) is adopted, we can still pilot later high school start times and save about $5 million MORE. This pilot uses the I-5 bell schedule but also moves 4 high schools and one middle school to 8 am. The schools used in this example are: Mt. Vernon,Madison, Hayfield and Woodson HS and Frost MS. Other high schools could be used and achieve similar savings.

    Click here to see more details and graphs.

    April 27, 2009: FCPS Proposing ES/MS Bell Schedule Changes for Fall 2009 - FCPS document FCPS Iteration #5 (posted 4.21.2009) lists changes in school start times that may be coming next fall. FCPS staff have proposed significant changes to many elementary and middle school start times. Unfortunately, the proposed changes DO NOT improve high school start times. Specifics have yet to made public, but SLEEP has discovered that the FCPS School Board may consider new proposed bell changes as part of its budget plan in May. SLEEP is concerned about the lack of public notice or input. There are choices to be made, and parents and teachers have a right to be involved.

    April 21, 2009: Sample Alternatives for Later Start Times - SLEEP has been working on other options for later start times. Former School Board member Steve Hunt developed a parametric software tool that allows us to change a start time at any given school and to see a graphical depiction of the approximate total number of busses in use over the course of the morning and afternoon. This software has made it possible to illustrate how some changes could decrease costs to the system. At this point, we are using the software tool to model options that don't move any elementary or middle schools' bell schedules but do shift some high schools later. Even better, it appears possible to do this AND save money! Take a look at a couple of our sample graphs on this, and Phyllis and Sandy's recent speeches to the Board of Supervisors.One model could save $11 million (which is enough to avoid increased class sizes)!

    If bell schedules are to be changed, it should be to benefit our students. Parents and teachers should have ample time to comment on specifics for their school before any decisions are made. Parents should also get a chance to decide if they would rather have high schools or middle schools get the benefit of later start times, if only one level can.

    March 16, 2009: Call to Action: Counter Efforts to Kill All Progress - Let your School Board members know they need to keep working on solving the too-early high school start time problem! This issue won’t go away until all our students have healthy schedules. But opponents want to close the door forever on improvements and will try to do so at the March 19 School Board meeting.

    Board members agreed that Iteration 3 (the first no-cost staff draft) will be rejected because of specific problems with the school-by-school bell schedule and that change won’t occur in the 2009-10 school year.

    But several School Board members stated their strong commitment to fixing the too-early high school start time problem and are working on ways to move forward. They need YOUR support.

    See excellent editorials supporting continued work on the later start time issue: “Snooze Control,” The Washington Post, March 9, 2009.

    Later Start Times Still Possible: Not this proposal, but later start times still worth the effort, without hurting athletics and activities,” The Connection Newspapers, March 3, 2009.


    SLEEP Cites Multiple Flaws in FCPS Survey

    An FCPS survey released March 6, 2009, failed to ask the most important questions in the later start time debate. Instead, it pointed to problems with the specifics of a staff draft of a bell schedule and drew on gross misinformation being spread throughout the school community as the survey was being conducted. In addition, the survey tool itself had multiple glaring flaws in design and administration, with no controls over who was taking it or how many times. See SLEEP statement.

    For a laugh about survey design, click here.

    Other no-cost options for bell schedule changes are possible, and SLEEP is continuing to explore them. Many of the opponents at community dialogues commented that they are in favor of later start times for the high school, but were opposed to specific elementary and middle school bell times in the Iteration 3 staff draft. Others were angry and motivated to attend the meetings based on the alleged potential impacts on sports and community use. To date, no real attempt at realistic and workable sports rescheduling has been done.

    Sports scheduling: FCPS should conduct a thorough analysis of current field and gym usage. Then it will be able to create a realistic and workable schedule for practice times for high school students that maintains time for community use.

    Major Problems in Staff DRAFT #3

    The FCPS STAFF DRAFT of the bell schedule (Iteration 3 or I-3) is unacceptable. Its main value was in proving that later high school start times could be accomplished at no cost, which staff had denied for more than five years. It got us over one major barrier, but was also filled with landmines. The community continues to strongly support later, healthier start times for our teen students but staff’s draft has too many problems:

    • no attempt was made to keep elementary schedules as close to current as possible too many elementary schools put on the “fringe” start times of 7:50 and 9:20 am radical shifts for many elementaries (late ones switched to early, early to late) pre-schools starting and ending too late
    • the lateness of most middle schools

    The staff’s draft sports schedule also seems to create more problems than it solves and has scared students into thinking they have to choose between a healthy school schedule and a sport they love when no such choice is necessary. (Since the first written version of the sports schedule was only released to the public during the community dialogues, SLEEP volunteers are still in the process of analyzing how much better the sports schedule could be.) Watch this space for more information on this.

    Even some opponents of Iteration 3 have commented that it seems as if this draft and the projected sports schedule were intentionally designed to shock and divide the community and to make parents, students and teachers cling to the status quo.

    Next steps: Take Action—Write to the School Board before March 9th. Ask the board members to USE the information gathered from the community dialogues and the surveys to move forward to give relief to our teen students, rather than giving up on this effort because of I-3’s flaws. Write to all of the school board members and to Dr. Dale (see email list below) to ask them to explore other options to change high school start times.,,,, ,,,,,,,,,

    Read Sleep's letter to the School Board, and write your own

    Find the facts here: “Healthy Start Times Mean Better Performance: In the classroom, on the field, and behind the wheel".

    Read Position Papers and Rebuttals - click here!

    Read Parents’ Testimony at the January 2009 School Board Budget Hearing, click here


  • January 2009: FCPS Staff Report No-Cost Plan To Fix Bell Schedules
    in Fairfax County Public Schools,
  • Happy New Year! FCPS Transportation staff released a report outlining a plan for implementing reasonable bell schedules with no added cost. The latest solution (Iteration 3), posted on the FCPS website, would require 1,128 buses, fewer than the current 1,144 being used in the 2008-9 school year.

    To see the full staff report, click here.

    The latest draft succeeded in placing all elementary schools between 7:50 am and 9:25 am, the same basic timeframe as now but with more on the earlier end in keeping in young-child biology. Most high schools were set to start at 8:30 am and end at 3:20 pm. Most middle schools would start at 9:40 am and end at 4:30 pm.

    This closely follows the Transportation Task Force recommendations and provides a solid framework for moving forward. See SLEEP's press release commenting on the latest development.

    Later start time advocates still have significant work to do before bell schedule changes can become a reality. One way to help: plan to attend a School Board work session to discuss the latest plan at 3-6:30 pm, Monday, Jan. 12, at Gatehouse Administration Center, 8115 Gatehouse Rd., room 1600, Falls Church.

  • SLEEP and Budget News
  • SLEEP's position is that any bell schedule changes should follow the recommendations of the Transportation Task Force and be designed for the academic and health needs of our students. See our recent letter to School Board Members.

    Read how better bell schedules are a win-win for students and the budget situation in the November 19, 2008 Guest column in The Connection newspapers: "Of Budgets and Buses How Everyone Wins with Better School Start Times."

  • School Board Includes Bell Schedule in Budget Review,
    Asks for More Information on Improvements As Part of Third Draft of Bell Schedule
  • The School Board agreed on Oct. 31, 2008 to include a budget line item in its working documents for a bell schedule change for next fiscal year. This is an important step in that it recognizes that the Board is considering a change in the coming year.

    But we are still a long way away and have many challenges, especially in this terrible budget year. One key challenge is getting accurate figures for how much the bell schedule change itself costs, as opposed to how much it costs to fix a number of problems with the current transportation system. This will be one of the critical factors when the School Board makes its decision.

    The third draft of the bell schedule, due in December, 2008, will incorporate one significant efficiency but still leaves out many potential improvements: putting more late elementary schools at 9:20 rather than 9:40 am, looking for new ways to transport TJ and GT and using depots for more out-of-boundary programs. For these, the School Board has instead asked the staff to give a more thorough report on how these changes might improve the schedule and cost estimates. Click here to see Second Draft of bell schedule.


  • Revised School Start Times Can Improve Learning AND Save Money
  • Press Release: As the budget crisis looms over all Fairfax County school issues, SLEEP leaders said yesterday that revised bell schedules can improve the health and learning of students countywide while also saving taxpayer money. See full text of Oct. 28, 2008 press release.

    Statement: Later start times can be a win-win for Fairfax County students and the budget. Recent FCPS staff work has shown that it is possible to fix $20 million worth of current problems in the system PLUS have later start times for high school students at a cost of about $4.3 million. This is a savings of almost $16 million. We are hoping that the staff's next draft of a bell schedule plan will find even more savings to accomplish these two goals at NO cost or net savings right from the start. See full text of SLEEP Statement.


  • Staff to Work on New Draft of Bell Schedule in November
  • Staff will start working on the next draft of the school-by-school bell schedule in November (2008). The changes to be made are still being decided, but one of the main goals will be to bring down the cost from the already low $4.3 million of Iteration 2. TTF Chair Dick Reed points out that the new bell schedules include fixing $20 million in problems with the current transportation system and so the stated "cost" actually represents more than $15 million in savings to FCPS.

    SLEEP has advocated for changes to both lower cost/increase savings and make all of the start times as reasonable as possible. Among the changes that would help would be to move some elementary schools so that there is balanced bus usage, remove extra cushion in the schedule so that most elementary schools will start no later than 9:20 am, consolidate bus stops for efficiency and cost-savings, redesign TJ and GT transport.

    We are hoping that the next draft will include some or all of those improvements, which are in line with Transportation Task Force proposals. We also support "decoupling" morning and afternoon runs, as agreed to by School Board members at the last work session, for efficiency and cost-savings. (Route-to-route connections that are efficient in the morning may not be in the afternoon, especially if schools are spread out or have large boundaries. Decoupling means that the morning runs will be designed for the morning and when a simple reversal of that run doesn't make sense, a more expeditious one will be created to meet needs in the afternoon.)


  • SLEEP Co-Founder Phyllis Payne appeared on The Washington Post's Raw Fisher radio program
    Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2008
  • Phyllis discussed the later start time issue, including the latest status report in Fairfax County. Also on the show was Patricia Velkoff, who opposes the later start time recommendations of the FCPS Transportation Task Force (TTF). To hear them face off on the issue, go to this archived link: . (Note: this is an audio link which will download and play.)

    SLEEP's rebuttal to the TTF Minority Report, which opposed the Majority's recommendations for later start times is also available: Executive Summary and Full Rebuttal.


  • Help Take Bell Schedule Recommendations to Your School
  • SLEEP has produced information sheets to help members discuss proposed bell schedule changes at their PTA meetings and other school events. Getting accurate information out to the public is an important way you can help the later start time effort. SLEEP participated in the Transportation Task Force and supports its recommendations for new bell schedules as a viable compromise. More community feedback and refinement is the next step. Some tools for you to use:


  • September, 2008, News Updates:
  • School Board Calls for More Work on Later Start Time Schedule,
    Requests Deadline for Fall 2009 Change

    The School Board made important decisions on our issue at its Monday Sept. 8 Work Session. We are moving forward, but there is more advocacy to be done if later start times are to become a reality in fall 2009.

    • With the latest version Draft 2 estimated to cost $4.3 million a year, way down from the first version, the Board asked that staff look at ways to save more money and give them a third draft. SLEEP supports this and believes it’s possible to turn later start times into a cost-saver.

    • The Board also asked staff to give them a “drop-dead” date for when they would have to make a decision in order to implement later start times in fall 2009. SLEEP supports this as guidance for Board action.

    • The Board postponed public input from this fall to early next year, after they get through a long series of budget hearings. SLEEP would have preferred to see the 3rd draft in October and public input in November, because Dr. Dale proposes his budget in January.

    Next steps: Recommendations for Iteration 3, pushing for early public input and action.

  • July 2008, News Updates:
  • FCPS Staff Developing Later Start Time Bell Schedule

    Transportation staff are working on school-by-school bell schedules that include later middle and high school start times. The staff presented its first draft to the School Board at its July 14 Work Session and a second draft at an Aug. 19, 2008 Work Session. As staff refines its model, costs continue to decrease.

    SLEEP appreciates the work that went into creating these models and congratulates FCPS on finding ways to reduce costs. We will advocate for a third version using more Transportation Task Force recommendations so the plan can both save money and have reasonable start times for all students K-12. TTF Chairman Dick Reed has said that the TTF proposals will save FCPS money while fixing current transportation problems and achieving later start times.

    FCCPTA Approves Resolution Supporting TTF Recommendations

    The May general membership meeting of the Fairfax County Council of PTAs approved a Resolution in support of the Transportation Task Force recommendations for revised bell schedules, including later high school start times. For more information, go to


  • June 2008: FCCPTA Survey Finds Overwhelming Parent Support for Later Start Time Plan,

    The Fairfax County Council of PTAs survey of more than 6,000 Fairfax County parents, conducted during June 2008, found that an overwhelming number support later high school start times as well as a specific proposal recommended by the FCPS Transportation Task Force (TTF) in March. A significant majority (61%) supported the TTF recommendation as proposed and another 24% liked the plan better than the current schedule but wanted some improvements. Only 15% preferred the current schedule to the TTF proposal. Link to the FCCPTA press release as well as the full report on the survey.

  • April 21, 2008, News Updates:
  • School Board to Create Study Circles to Discuss TTF Recommendations,Will NOT Hold June Town Hall Meetings

    MSNVA, FEA Teacher Survey, Sleep Researchers Support Later Start Times

    Supervisors Ask Staff to Craft Sleep Questions for Youth Risk Survey

  • March 2008 Announcement:

FCPS Transportation Task Force (TTF) proposes changes in bus service and new bell schedules that achieve beneficial later start times for high school students.

SLEEP Summaries of the Transportation Task Force work are now available: Bell Schedule Proposals and Transportation Service Parameters and Other Recommendations.

To review the complete document, please click on the links below:
The 320 page version: Final Report of the TTF (with Appendices-this is a large, 3.7GB file).
The 24 page Final Report without Appendices.   

  • January 2008 Announcement

We should be seeing significant action in early 2008, including a report from the School Board's Transportation Task Force that will include its best alternative(s) for a later high school bell schedule.

Various committees are looking at five bell schedule scenarios. These could be modified before final recommendations are made, but for now these are the five the Task Force has developed. Please take a look at them and let us know which you think may be the best alternative(s):

When considering them, please keep in mind these basic factors:

  • schools need to be on three "tiers" so buses can be used three times in the AM and PM for efficiency's sake (having fewer tiers would costs 10s of millions of dollars, so not a viable option) Tiers need to be at least 45 minutes apart (or longer, to keep costs down) for the buses to make deliveries and get to their next runs This means the earliest bell and the latest bell need to be about 1.5 to 2 hours apart.
  • Elementary schools now start anywhere from 7:50 am to 9:25 am and will need to be on at least two of the tiers because of how many there are

The Task Force has made some preliminary recommendations on transportation issues, such as how long bus rides should be, limits on children waiting for buses in the dark, etc. There is a special website for documents connected to the TTF. To follow the group's progress click on this link:

BUDGET HEARINGS: Please consider signing up to speak at the Feb. 6 hearings on the budget to voice your support for later high school start times. You can signup between January 11 and February 5 at the following link:

Read the New York Times Op-Ed article by author Nancy Kalish entitled The Early Bird Gets the Bad Grade.


  • October 2007 Announcement:

The School Board Transportation Task Force (TTF) has started its work. Its mission includes "a focus on possibly changing school start times particularly for high schools." The TTF charter states that the SB believes that later start times would be beneficial, and seeks the best alternatives for achieving them." This language was added at a School Board work session in July and represented a significant step in recognition that reasonable start times for our children K-12 are best for their physical, mental and academic health.

Task Force members may be most interested in SLEEP documents on our “History” and Research pages.  The research page includes surveys within Fairfax, information from other jurisdictions that have shifted to later start times and more. FCPS has created a special website for the TTF, with background documents, meetings agendas, etc. 

  • June 2007 Announcement:

School Board Members decided to discuss "parameters" for the Transportation Re-engineering and to involve stakeholders. To inform the discussion, staff presented a "Transportation Primer On Transportation Bell Schedules" and a set of "Parameters To Be Decided". We have added SLEEP comments to both documents in blue font and have written an email to SB members. If you have additional suggestions, feel free to email us at

  • May 2007Announcement:

The School Board has taken a significant, positive step on the start time issue. But there is still more work ahead for SLEEP supporters.

Good news: At a work session on April 23, the School Board agreed by consensus (no formal vote) to ask staff to re-engineer transportation bell schedules and routing to change high school start times and to improve certain service parameters. Staff said they could have something for the community to react to by next Spring for possible implementation in the 2009-2010 school year.

Not so good news: Describing how they would proceed, staff said they would:

  • Wait 6 months before reassigning personnel to work on this effort (October or November).
  • Develop cost-neutral proposals to avoid the need for more bus drivers or parking.
  • Prefer to wait for community input until after a new schedule is developed.

SLEEP testified on May 16 about the direction we believe the School Board should take. For more information, click here.

  • Feb. 11, 2007 Announcement:

YOUR emails made the difference! On February 7, the School Board voted 7 to 5 to include a $300,000 placeholder in the school system's 2008 budget to address pressing transportation issues. While the final motion did not specifically mention later start times, SLEEP sees reengineering transportation as a step toward achieving this goal. 

Final vote on Kory-Hunt amendment for the $300,000 budget placeholder for transportation:

7 votes in favor: (SLEEP position): Kaye Kory, Steve Hunt, Janet Oleszek, Ilyong Moon, Cathy Belter, Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, and Janie Strauss.

5 votes opposed: Kathy Smith, Stu Gibson, Brad Center, Dan Storck, and Tessie Wilson

Some members said they were voting against only because they wanted more information from upcoming work sessions.

SLEEP response to SBM form letter on placeholder amendment: A few School Board members sent out form letters that contained inaccurate information in response to constituents' calls for action on the $300,000 placeholder amendment supported by SLEEP. We respond here.

  • January 2007

The MPS Phase 2 study is a very positive step forward in the discussion of how to achieve later high school start times.

Highlights of The MPS Phase 2 Report:

  • Later high school start times are feasible at a reasonable cost
  • Models with bell schedules between 8 and 9:35 am would cost between $5.9-$9.2 million. (Other models cost less but had later end times.)
  • This is a stand-alone estimate. It requires no changes to boundaries, current level of transportation service or elimination of transportation to special programs (e.g., GT Centers). Elementary school children would not be at bus stops in the dark.
  • Separate estimates of how much would be saved with certain policy changes or service reductions (such as boundary changes) were small.
  • The transportation system needs to be reengineered to avoid a crisis in the next few years.

Highlights of school board's work session:

  • Most of the school board members expressed a belief that FCPS must re-engineer its transportation system sooner rather than later to avert a true collapse.
  • Several agreed that later high school start times should be included as part of the overhaul.
  • Initial costs of creating later high school start times might be greater than the modeled estimates but would settle in to that level as real-world efficiencies are regained.
  • School board members agreed to discuss this issue further in January.

Other Notes of Interest:

Transportation service reductions and boundary changes yield less-than-expected cost savings:

§ Systemwide, the projected cost savings range from 0 to $8.4 million (p.7 and 34). The school system would need to balance these relatively modest cost savings against the disruption of service reductions.

SLEEP Conclusion:

This report paves the way for the next step in considering later high school start times. With this data as a starting point, FCPS can start a meaningful dialog with the community about school start and end times. We need to explore other issues besides transportation using a collaborative, cooperative, solutions-based approach.

Later start times might serve as a catalyst for an overdue reengineering of the FCPS transportation system. While FCPS has managed to stretch transportation resources far beyond what could be expected, consultants are telling us that it has reached--and exceeded--its limits. New service demands are inevitable as FCPS transitions to the 21st Century. Reengineering transportation with a preferred bell schedule in mind would help the entire system prepare for the future.



SLEEP in Fairfax
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