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.

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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Moving Towards A Positive Change For Our Children!

The school board is another step closer to reaching its goal to start high schools at or after 8 a.m. With strong consensus, the board agreed to post Superintendent Garza's preferred plan as New Business on September 18th and will vote on the plan on October 23rd. The preferred plan for implementation in 2015-2016 is a significant improvement over the current situation. In addition, Dr. Garza indicated her goal to continue working to get the middle school start times closer to 8 a.m. in the future! We support the board's work and tremendous progress on this issue.

High school schedule Middle school schedule Elementary school schedule
7:20 - 8:05
8:00 - 9:20
Preferred Plan  with length of day = 6 h 45 m

  8:00 - 8:10

8:00 - 9:20

Implementation of this scenario means that all Fairfax students will have a start time after 8 a.m. for at least ten or eleven of their thirteen years in Fairfax County. And, secondary school students may entirely avoid start times before 8 a.m., which will be a relief to families who have had to suffer the painfully early starts for six years in a row up to now. This option may not be perfect, but it is a big improvement over the current schedule that has many middle and all high school students starting at 7:20 a.m.

This option retains the current schedules of the elementary schools and continues to dismiss older siblings in time to provide after-school care for younger siblings. The impact on sports and extra-curricular activities is minimal. FCPS will continue to offer a middle school after-school program five days a week that is free of charge.

One major accomplishment of the FCPS Transportation staff in the CNMC Blueprint for Change is the elimination of extra-early school arrival times, what is known as the "false tier." High school students and many middle school students are currently delivered to school 20-35 minutes prior to the bell. The new plan narrows that delivery window to 10 or 15 minutes, and gives the extra time in the morning to families rather than having students cool their heels in school buildings. This means that high school buses will arrive at school 65-75 minutes later than many do now. The net effect also helps offset the change for middle schools that shift earlier.

Help Make Later Start Times A Reality: PLEASE STAY ENGAGED!

We need to continue to actively support the school board's work to reach its goal to start high schools after 8 a.m. to benefit the health, well-being, and performance of students. The board will vote on a final plan at their meeting on October 23rd. This timeline allows plenty of lead time for Fairfax families and stakeholders to adapt personal schedules. 


  • 72 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.
bell schedule
    Many Organizations Support the Positive Impact That Later Morning School Schedules Have on Teen Sleep Including:
    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 Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work Real Food For Kids

SLEEP in Fairfax
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