The “flip” is only one of many approaches schools use to provide healthy schedules. Each community can and usually does explore a number of options when looking for that “Goldilocks solution” to balance the political resistance to change against the biological needs of the students.
Start School Later’s position is to encourage districts to schedule all children to start school after 8 a.m., our leadership also recognizes that we don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. None of our children should be at the bus stop before dawn.
We minimized the number of years that any student would be exposed to start times before 8 a.m.
While the change meant that most 7th and 8th graders started around 15 minutes earlier than before for their two years in middle school, all high schoolers started 50 minutes later for 9-12th grade. Our 7th to 12th grade secondary school students all start at 8 a.m. now, a 40-minute improvement. Parents may still be sleep deprived, but like our children, our years of sleep deprivation due to school policy are more limited than they were before we tackled the problem.
We don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good. None of our children should be at the bus stop before dawn.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) data confirm findings from previous studies—Fewer teen drivers in Fairfax are involved in car crashes, including crashes related to distracted driving (DMV has no category for “drowsy driving”). That’s one finding that hopefully provides peace of mind not only to parents of young drivers, but also to people who share the roads with them.
Phyllis Payne, MPH is a Co-Founder of SLEEPinFairfax and Implementation Director of Start School Later. Sandy Evans is a Fairfax County School Board Member and SLEEPinFairfax Co-Founder, Judith A. Owens is the Director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children's Hospital and Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School who has studied the process of bell-time change in Fairfax County Public Schools.