Fairfax County School Board releases new Bell Schedule

In 2012, the Fairfax County school board started a discussion about later start time for high school students. In April, the board adopted a solution and it became a goal for FCPS high schools to start after 8:00 am.

This goal began to have the possibility of becoming a reality in August of 2014 when the American Academy of Pediatrics issued statements recommending that schools start later. On October 23th the decision was finalized, and it was decided that high schools would start after 8:00 am.

The plan involves middle schools starting earlier than they used to, and high schools being pushed back to a later time. Elementary schools will start at generally the same time.

For the 2015-2016 school year, McLean High School will be beginning at 8:10 a.m and ending at 2:55 p.m. This new starting time means school will begin 50 minutes later than it did this year. Classes and break time will be adjusted as needed in accordance with the new bell schedule.

Longfellow Middle School, the primary feeder school of McLean will be starting at 7:30 a.m. and ending at 2:15 a.m .  Elementary school times have not been changed significantly, with some schools not being affected at all. All schools will now be in session for six hours and 45 minutes every day.

Four options were considered when discussing changing school time. After considering the public’s opinions, it was decided that the option to move middle schools earlier and high schools later would be the most effective.

“Eight community meetings were held in 2014 during which approximately 1,000 participants shared their opinions on four options. In addition, more than 2,000 comments were gathered from an online feedback form,” Principal Ellen Riley said in a McLean Keep in Touch email.

Fairfax County consulted the Children’s National Medical center to develop proposals that would help them achieve their goal to start high schools after 8:00 am. After looking at research which states later school times lead to improved performance and safety in adolescents, Fairfax County decided to adopt these later start times.

“The  School Board…cited research which demonstrates that school schedules should be aligned with the biological sleep rhythms of adolescents in order to improve their mental and physical health, academic performance, and safety,’ Riley said in a McLean Keep in Touch email.

The implementation of this plan will result in an increase of an estimated $4.9 million dollars and will require the addition of 27 buses. The transportation department has been working on dry runs of bus routes and bus schedules will be sent in the the summer.

Students are dived on later start times for next year, with some being worried about what the changes will mean for after school activities.

“I think it’s going to be really be nice having that extra hour to sleep in, but [I] am also concerned about how sports practices will be affected by it,” sophomore Zoë Chandra said.

Others do not see the point in the later start times, and do not understand why the school board decided to implement them.

“Kids are getting the same amount of sleep just at a different time,”  sophomore Katie Hoskins said.

Even with divided opinions about about later start times, the decision has already been made. Fairfax County will be starting the 2015-2016 school year 50 minutes later than this year at 8:10 a.m.