Worried About

          Keeping Extra-curriculars

* And worried about ALL the costs to students, families, employees, and taxpayers from

the proposed late-bell schedule for Fairfax County. 

  This web site was designed to provide information and opinions about the proposed changes. 


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Transportation Task Force 
 Costs to Community  After-school Activities

 Reading Material


 How to help students In the News 


"Whenever the people are well-informed they can be trusted with their own government;

 that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice,

they may be relied on to set them to rights."      ~ Thomas Jefferson

9/10/2009 ~ Welcome to the 2009-2010 School Year!

WAKE will continue to support a "whole-child" approach to policy making for our school system.  

3/19/2009 11:15pm ~ The school board voted 10-2 to "Reject Iteration 3 and Confirm the Current Structure"  (Washington Post article 3/20/2009)

All proposed amendments failed.  There were good discussions about assessing "lessons learned" from this process, and about concentrating on alternate strategies to help students with sleep problems (strategies that don't involve changing bell schedules, such as offering online courses, internships, flexible scheduling, as well as efforts to increase education about effects of caffeine, exercise, etc. on sleep.)

There were also good discussions about the overwhelming feedback the board received from the community.  Board members listened to many personal stories of how the bell-schedule change would affect families in fundamental ways - from changing child-care arrangements, to hardships for military families, to students and parents worried about losing family time.   

Many thanks to the board members who responded to feedback from the community and voted to Reject Iteration #3:

Kathy Smith, Jim Raney, Liz Bradsher, Stuart Gibson, Jane Strauss, Tessie Wilson,

 Brad Center, Phil Niedzielski-Eichner, Ilryong Moon, Dan Storck

(read statement presented at Board Meeting 3/19/2009;  see comments on U.S. Navy Study)

3/18/2009Troubling amendments posted on FCPS web site on agenda for Thursday, March 19.  References to imposing "reasonable" pick-up and drop-off times, and "age-appropriate" start times with no mention of WHO decides what's reasonable and age-appropriate, or HOW those things will be decided.  (SLEEP supporters may disagree with education professionals, for example, on what qualifies as an 'age-appropriate' start time.) The restriction "for the 2009-2010 school year" is added to the motion so that it reads “I move to reject the proposed bell schedule (known as Iteration 3) and confirm the existing structure for the 2009-2010 school year.”  Doesn't confirming the structure for just one school year open the door for future changes?  Read an opinion submitted by email about the amendments and the vote on Thursday.

(More letters and opinions added to the Feedback page.)

3/17/2009 ~  Most board members agree that Iteration 3 is "dead."  However, they don't agree on how to proceed --- amendments are being drafted for possible action at Thursday's meeting.   I'll try to share information about any details as they become available.

3/16/2009  ~ As reported recently, it looks like the school board may reject Iteration 3 of the Transportation Task Force Proposal at its meeting March 19.

However, many board members (possibly a majority) are still committed to the idea of pursuing later start times.  There have been suggestions to phase in changes over five years; to set "earliest pick-up" and "latest drop-off" times and then change school start times to conform to those parameters; to choose certain schools to have later start times based on "traffic and availability of athletic facilities" (but not based on community input on whether a change is wanted?), and so on.  Read discussion of a draft proposal before the board.

Also, two unique policy issues continue to be "bundled" as one topic: "finding efficiencies" and "moving to a late-bell schedule."  The two issues should be separate.  Improving efficiencies will save money, while moving to a late-bell schedule will cost money.   To set a wise direction for future policy, the board should draw a clear line between these two issues. It's especially important in these tough economic times to focus on ways to save money and help the school budget.

 Thought for the day:  Task Force Statements

 Letter  in response to published letter in Washington Post Putting Sports ahead of Sleep 3/11/09

3/12/2009 ~ Fairfax Times, article about late-bell proposal, March 11, 2009

Thought for the day:  One cost-cutting recommendation of the Transportation Task Force is to "de-couple" morning and afternoon bus routes.  Is it time for the school board to "de-couple" policy-making?  Cutting costs/increasing efficiencies in transportation is a separate issue from pushing for a late-bell schedule.  The results of the Transportation Task Force are evidence of that:  increasing efficiencies saves money; while implementing a late-bell proposal costs money.  Many members of the Task Force who signed the Minority Report were frustrated that the task force didn't focus more on cutting costs and saving money.  Instead, the task force spent much of its time and energy on the second goal - investigating a late-bell proposal.

3/10/2009 ~ School Board Leans Against Changing Bell TImes Washington Post article reporting on school board work session March 9, 2009

NEW - some facts about the FCCPTA Survey

3/9/2009 ~ Letter in response to Washington Post editorial

Press Release: Results in Fairfax County Conclusive: Don't Change School Schedules

See comparison of pros and cons of late-bell proposal by Chantilly High School PTSA in Reading Material (also translated in Spanish and Korean)

3/7/2009 ~ Results of community meetings consistent with online survey:

77 percent of community dialogue participants reported that they do not want FCPS to make this change to the proposed bell schedule (Question 6).

3/6/2009 ~ * over 37,000 parents are satisfied with current schedule *

(that's 3 times more than the number of parents who said they don't like current schedule; and 4 times more than the number of signatures on the SLEEP petition)

FCPS posts results from online survey  ~ 

 80% of students; 75% of parents; 85% of staff and 80% of community are satisfied with the current schedule (are either indifferent or believe it works well for them)

ALSO - Memo from The Northern Region Athletic Administrators Association (NRAAA) opposing the bell-schedule change -- The NRAAA  is comprised of the 31 high schools who compete together in the Northern Region: 25 FCPS, 4 Arlington, 1 Loudoun, and 1 Alexandria. 

March 5, 2009 School board meeting: read remarks to school board

3/5/2009 - Great piece by Preston Williams in The Washington Post ! - see more articles In the News 

 3/3/2009 - New Statement from WAKE, SOS and TTF Minority: March 2, 2009

Study shows mixed results from changing schedule: South Burlington District 2008   "When looking at the data for the change in start time, the pattern that emerged for most areas was that the data were distributed fairly evenly across those who agree, those who disagree, and those who held no opinion."

2/27/2009 ~ Letter to the Editor in the Connection, Centreview Northern Edition: Let's Finally Put the Bell-schedule Change to Sleep  (page 9)

2/26/2009 - A blog by two working parents called “The Juggle” which is carried by the Wall Street Journal covers the topic of our late-bell proposal  The Juggle    

Please see concerns about middle-school students and pre-school students in Feedback (new 2/26/2009)

 FCPS staff released preliminary report on Impact on Athletics

The school board encouraged participants of the public meetings this week to be specific about the pros and cons of the proposal.  Here are two stories from Thursday night's meeting at Whitman:

  • a parent who calculated that the change in day-care would cost her an additional $4,000 per year.  She can't afford that increase.
  • a teacher at Groveton Elementary who was there on behalf of "her families" -- the many low-income, minority, non-native English-speaking families who would be hurt by the proposal because they can't make changes to day-care, transportation and so on that would be required.  Notably, this teacher took time out of her evening to advocate on behalf of the students and families from her school; she wasn't there out of self-interest, but out of concern for a part of the community that doesn't seem to have been represented in the decision-making process so far.

2/24/2009 ~ After two years of study, and careful consideration, The Fairfax County Athletic Council voted unanimously to oppose any change in the bell schedule due to the negative impact on community use of school facilities, interscholastic sports, and all other after-school activities. FCAC letter

2/12/2009  - County Executive expresses concern about late-bell proposal to Board of Supervisors: click here

Statement in response to SLEEP Press Release 2/11/2009:   click here  

2/5/2009 - Joint statement from WAKE, SOS, and TTF Minority click here

2/2/2009  - New on the LINKS page ~ last year, the school board in Orange County Florida tried to institute a late start for high schools; they had to reverse the decision after just seven months due to widespread dissatisfaction with the change


The Fairfax County School Board is considering a  proposal  to change the start times of all Fairfax County Public Schools.  The main purpose of the proposal is to achieve better sleep conditions for middle and high-school students.  It's a great idea to try to improve sleep conditions for our teenagers.

However, any change comes with costs and trade-offs.  The purpose of this web site is to summarize the concerns of many parents, teachers, students, and community-members about the direct - and indirect - costs associated with such a big change.  

For every high-school student who gets an extra hour of sleep, will there be a middle-school student who no longer has access to an after-school SOL review program? 

For every high-school teacher who has a better morning schedule, will there be a middle-school teacher whose evening commute time is doubled because she now drives home during the worst of rush hour?

For every high-school family that enjoys a healthier morning schedule, will there be an elementary-school family faced with after-school child-care expenses and disruptions?

What costs are associated with the late-bell proposal, and are the impacts on traffic, schedules, families, and after-school activities worth the benefits?

There are three main areas of concern about the late-start proposal:

  • The proposal threatens after-school activities, including academic clubs, athletics, and extra-curricular activities. There are only 24 hours in a day; if the proposal aims to give students an extra hour of sleep a day, some other activity will have to go.  While these activities are "voluntary," they are an important part of what makes FCPS graduates well-educated, well-rounded individuals who are attractive to colleges and employers.  Seventy percent of FCPS students are involved in these activities. Middle school students who will be dismissed as late as 4:30 may see the largest cut in after-school enrichment programs.
  • The proposal introduces severe disruptions for families, teachers, commuters during morning AND evening rush hour, availability of older siblings for after-school care of younger siblings, student work opportunities, schedules of FCPS employees, including teachers, administrators, transportation, food services, and all support services, as well as FCPS employees who work a second job or who take classes at nearby institutions, such as George Mason. Middle-school students, who would have the latest dismissal times, may have the most severe negative effects.
  • The results of the 2007 Transportation Task Force indicate there are still several areas of concern.  The 2007 TTF was established by the School Board to study the effects of a bell change and to make recommendations about ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies for Transportation.   The TTF Majority recommended the current late-bell proposal by a slim margin.  Of the 43 committee-member votes, 24 were in favor of the proposal, and 19 were not.   Of those 19, 12 voted "no" and 7 abstained.  The Minority Report raises important points about the impact of a proposed change on County students, teachers and community. In addition, the Minority Report raises procedural issues, including under-representation of several constituencies on the Task Force, and the voting system used. For example, why wasn't the task force allowed to compare a proposed change in the bell system to the current bell system, so that the costs and benefits of the proposal could be explicitly considered? 

The only way to make a wise decision is to explicitly evaluate the relative costs and benefits associated with the change.  If the late-start proposal doesn't improve sleep conditions for a large group of students (who now have activities moved to before school), and it has strong negative impacts on important student activities, and it introduces severe disruptions for families, students, teachers, other FCPS employees, and the community as a whole, then the proposal should not be accepted.


 What About Kelly and Ed?  click here to read an example of what the proposal means to sample FCPS students


The Proposal

The proposed bell schedule continues the current three-tier system.  It begins with Elementary Schools (ES), follows with High Schools (HS), and ends with Middle Schools (MS). To balance the tiers, there are elementary schools in each tier.  (ES would be split roughly 55%, 25%, and 20% between tiers for balance today.) Transportation should put as many ES as possible in tiers 1 and 2, while keeping HS in tier 2. Maximum bus rides for elementary students are 45 minutes. Maximum bus rides for middle and high-school students are 60 minutes. (These maximum rides are for within-boundary base schools.)




Start Times

End Times



7:50 – 8:10

2:30 – 2:50


High (& Some Elem)

8:35 – 8:55

3:25 – 3:45


Middle (& Some Elem)

9:20 – 9:40

4:10 – 4:30


CONTACT INFORMATION: Please direct questions and comments to wakefcps@gmail.com


(site last updated: February 23. 2009)