Fairfax County proposals posted for later high school start times

The Fairfax County School Board will consider several proposals for changes in the bell schedules on April 23. The Children’s National Medical Center is recommending four different options to achieve the goal of later high school start times. Currently high schools start at 7:20; elementary schools start between 8:00-9:20, and middle schools start between 7:40-8:05.

Under the first option, which would cost $12.4 million, high schools would start at 8:10, middle schools at 8:50, and elementary schools between 7:35-9:40. For a lower cost ($7.6 million), high schools would start at 8:30, middle schools at 9:30, and elementary schools between 7:50 and 9:15.

There are two options which would start middle schools at 7:20. One option would cost $5.6 million, with high schools starting at 8:00 or 8:10, secondary schools at 7:50 or 8:20, and elementary schools starting between 8:00-9:20.  The other option, costing $4.7 million, would start high schools at 8:10-8:20 and elementary schools between 7:45-9:10.

If we are going to all this trouble to avoid having high school students start school at 7:20, it doesn’t make much sense to say that the middle school students should start school at 7:20.  Either 7:20 is too early for adolescents, and we should be willing to spend money to change it, or it is really OK to have such early start times and there is no need to spend money providing later times for just some of the students.

The Blueprint for Change also provides three other options ranging from no cost (modified high school/middle school flip), to $0.3 million (some elementary schools start at 10:00 and end at 4:40) to $2.8 Million (high schools start at 9:15 and end at 4:05).

CNMC recommends that eight community meetings be held in May and June. They also recommend that a revised proposal be presented as new business to the school board in September with a vote in October. Full implementation would be in September 2015.

Here is the text of the presentation that is on the agenda for April 23:

Blueprint for Change
Status Update

Fairfax County School Board
April 23, 2104
Children’s National Medical Center


  • Judith Owens MD MPH
    Director of Sleep Medicine, CNMC
    Project Co-Director
  • Daniel Lewin, PhD
    Associate Director of Sleep Medicine, CNMC
    Project Co-Director
  • Darrel Drobnich
    Senior Consultant
  • Allison Baylor
    Research Assistant, CMMC

 Overview of Key Tasks

  1. Review Background Information/Conduct Initial Research
  2. Engage Community and Stakeholders
  3. Review of Bell Option Concepts
    • Lessons learned from refinements and changes to options
    • Feedback and guidance from key stakeholders
    • Assessment based on biological, cost and political/logistical concerns
  4. Develop 2/3 Scenarios and Conduct an Alternative Analysis
  5. Review the feasibility of a phased-in approach for 2014/20115 school year
    • Feedback from stakeholders and FCPS departments
  6. Discuss Key Stakeholder/District-wide Issues
    • Policies and programs that provide further efficiencies regarding costs and logistics
    • Issues that require further stakeholder engagement and partnership during implementation
  7. Develop a Blueprint for Change
    • Refined focus on options and revised final recommendations
  8. Propose Community Engagement Plan
    • Policies and programs that provide further cost and logistical efficiencies
    • Issues that require further stakeholder engagement and partnership during implementation
  9. Provide Final Report to School Board

Review Background Information/Conduct Initial Research

  • Conducted scientific literature review
  • Reviewed and analyzed previous FCPS task force reports, surveys and background materials
  • Created National School Start Times database of successful school districts to review practices and strategies
    • Conducted national survey of successful school districts
    • Obtained other case studies and conducted interviews (Wilton, CT; Milwaukee, WI; and Arlington, VA)
    • Report developed

 Community and Stakeholder Engagement

  • Individual Stakeholder Group Meetings (45+)
  • Community/PTA Presentations (9)
  • District Needs Assessment/Principal’s Survey
  • Stakeholder Advisory Group Meetings (4)
  • Exhibit at Fairfax County Council of PTAs Annual Training
  • Blackboard Collaborate Online Web Chat/Presentation to High School Principals
  • Presentations to Principals at District-Wide Meeting
  • Presentation and Workshop Activity with Student Advisory Council

Stakeholder Feedback

  • Pleased to be engaged early in the process
    • Welcome spirit of partnership and willingness to work with FCPS
  • Generally believe that change can be accomplished; hope that flexibility can be shown to find solutions
  • More time for community engagement and planning is necessary
  • Standardized length of day across tiers is acceptable
  • Elimination of ½ Mondays for ES; appropriate planning time maintained
  • Advanced Academic Programs (centralized vs. local)
  • Enforcement of public placement policies
  • Community access to fields, gymnasiums, and tennis courts
  • FCPS swim teams practice at the 9 RECenters
  • Delivery to Thomas Jefferson

Approach to Development of Scenarios

  • Weigh biology, costs/logistics, or community/political considerations
  • High schools should start after 8:00
  • Minimize change for elementary school start times
  • Good to offer options that put middle schools early, between 8-9, and late in the “comfort zone”
  • No civil twilight violations, either in morning or afternoon

Recommended Bell Schedule Windows

Based on extensive meetings with OTS [Office of Transportation Services] and stakeholders, and development of 19 different bell schedules, the “comfort zones” for each tier are:

  1. Elementary school: 7:45-9:15; currently 8:00-9:20
  2. Middle school: 7:20-9:30, with stronger preference for earlier; currently 7:40-8:05
  3. High school: 8:00-8:30; currently 7:20


  • High school start times will change (School Board Resolution April 2012)
  • Full implementation in September 2015


  • All costs presented are estimates
  • Models selected for public comment and community engagement
  • Estimates will be refined once community preferred approach is developed

Middle Schools Later

MS “Middle”/ES “Open Window”

Tier Start End
HS 8:10 3:00
MS 8:50 3:40
ES 7:35-9:40 2:15-4:20

Approximate cost: $12,372,092
Buses Added: 108

Middle School “Late

Tier Start End
HS 8:30 3:20
MS 9:30 4:20
ES 7:50-9:15 2:25-3:50

Approximate cost: $7,645,208
Buses Added: 60

Middle Schools Earlier

MS “Early”/ES 15 Min Earlier

Tier Start End
HS 8:10-8:20 3:00-3:10
MS 7:20 2:10
ES 7:45-9:10 2:20-3:45

Approximate cost: $4,655,128
Buses Added: 38

MS/HS “Flip”

 Tier Start End
HS 7:50-8:20 2:40-2:50
MS 7:20 2:00
ES 8:00-9:20 2:40-4:00

Secondary schools are 7:50 or 8:20 with all other HS at 8:00 or 8:10
Elementary schools kept on current schedule
Approximate cost: $5,583,005
Buses Added: 46

Alternative Concepts for Discussion

 40 Minute Slide/  “No Cost”

Tier Start End
HS 8:00 2:50
MS 8:25-8:40 3:15-3:30
ES 8:40-10:00 3:20-4:40

 Approximate Cost: $315,898
Buses Added: 3

High School Later

Tier Start End
HS 9:15 4:05
MS 8:20-8:30 3:10-3:50
ES 7:40-9:15 2:20-3:50

One middle school at 9:00

Approximate Cost: $2,759,749
Buses Added: 25

Phased-in Approach—Modified HS/MS “Flip”

Tier Start End
HS 8:10 2:50
MS 7:20 2:00
ES 8:00-9:20 2:40-4:00
  • Can do 5 SPECIFIC pairs of middle and high schools with little to no costs and minimal to changes to elementary schools in those pyramids
  • Modeled as Modified HS/MS “Flip” Option

Approximate Cost: None to very minimal

CNMC Recommendations for Discussion

CNMC recommends the following 3-4 scenarios for public engagement:

  1. MS “Middle”/ES “Open Window”
  2. Middle School Late
  3. MS “Early”/ES 15 Min Earlier
  4. MS/HS “Flip”

Approximate Timeline for Implementation and Next Steps

  • May/June
    • Execute community engagement process (see attachment)
    • Hold 8 town hall meetings held by FCPS and CNMC; one per cluster
  • July
    • Delivery of Blueprint for Change including recommended model
    • Additional refinement of select scenarios/hybrid by OTS
  • September
    • Board Action—New Business
  • October
    • Final Board Action
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