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Middle-school Students & Families

Middle schools would have the latest start times and the latest dismissal times under the new proposal  (start at 9:40am; dismissal at 4:30pm).  There would be less time for after-school activities of all kinds.  The latest drop-off time after regular dismissal (no late buses) averages around 5:35pm, with latest drop-off times close to 6pm for some schools.   (See Iteration #3 on FCPS web site click here)  The experience in Minneapolis showed that when they switched to a late bell schedule, middle school students had negative impacts.   click here to read a summary of the Minneapolis experience with a late bell schedule.

Families

Earlier dismissal times for elementary school students will introduce child-care issue for many families.  Older teens will no longer be available to help out.  The SACC program does not meet the current demand for after-school child care (there are waiting lists for most SACC programs), so families will have to find alternatives that may be costly.   If parents are able to adjust work schedules so they arrive home earlier, they will probably have to go to work earlier.  That means getting elementary-school students off to school in the morning may also become a child-care challenge.  Older siblings would be available; however, those siblings would now be getting up early -- which defeats the purpose of the late-bell schedule.

Middle-school students will arrive home as late as 6pm.  Time for dinner, homework, and extra-curricular activities will be limited.

If transportation is not provided for before-school activities, parents will have to provide that transportation.  Some families will not have the flexibility to do so, which increases inequities in the accessibility of school programs. 

Many elementary schools will have early bus rides for students.  At least 20 elementary schools will have an Earliest Pickup Time before 7am --- ranging from 6:31am for Mount Eagle, 6:36am for Bush Hill, 6:43am for Floris, and so on.  (See Iteration #3 on FCPS web site click here) [New Info 2/9/2009:  According to school board member Brad Center, no elementary-school students will have to wait for a bus before 7am -- the schedule shows those students who are picked up at their homes, for special education centers, etc.]

Rush-hour traffic

Will later dismissal times negatively affect the evening rush hour traffic in the Northern Virginia area?  Northern Virginia traffic already is a huge quality-of-life issue for the region.  Adding more cars and school buses to the mix would not be helpful.   Increased traffic would increase the travel time for teachers, students, families, and the community as a whole.  MIddle school buses would be scheduled to be on the road from 4:30-6:00pm; in addition, if high-school late buses are provided, the FTS report says that they would start at 5pm.  Commuters during rush hour will have a greater chance of being behind a bus making frequent stop to pick up or discharge students. Has the TTF, or Facilities, estimated how many additional buses that means at that time of day? Do we really want to do something that would make traffic in Northern Virginia even worse? 

 FCPS Employees

Many teachers are also parents.  The current schedule allows for older siblings (or other high-school or middle-school teens) to provide child-care.  Many teachers are concerned about the effect of a late-bell schedule on their family schedules.

If some activities are moved to before the school day with a late-start schedule, many teachers will face an even longer, more tiring work day. 

At present, thousands of FCPS teachers are able to take classes at George Mason that begin as early as 4:30.  A late-bell schedule will make it harder for FCPS teachers to take classes that further their education.

Many support employees, as well as teachers, currently work 2 jobs to make ends meet.  With the change in their release time this would create a financial hardship on those FCPS employees.

Middle-school teachers are concerned about teaching difficult subjects as late as 3:30-4:30 in the afternoon -- students will be at the end of a long day.  Teachers feel that morning hours are the peak times for learning; not very late in the afternooon.

All of the middle school teachers who currently provide coaching services at the high schools (or for their own children's athletic teams) would no longer be able to depend on that extra pay to supplement their incomes, or have that bonding time with their children.

Some students may not get more sleep after all.

According to the SLEEP web site, a possible solution to cutting time from afternoon activities is to move those activities to before school.  Obviously, if these clubs or study sessions are moved to before school, the students who participate will no longer get extra sleep. Perhaps worse, contrary to advice from all  major sleep experts, they no longer will have a consistent schedule.  In addition, at present, there are NO provisions to have FCPS transportation for before-school activities, so parents and families would incur the burden of morning transportation. 

Transportation Issues

It's been reported that the change to a later bell schedule could be accomplished with No-Cost in terms of transportation.   There are proposed changes to transportation, however, that include:  consolidating bus stops; optimize bus stop placements by making better use of the permissible walking distance for elementary, middle and high-school students; respect "Civil Twilight" but not as an absolute barrier (elementary school buses could start runs before Civil Twilight, but not more than 10 days each academic year); elimination of neighborhood bus stops for non-mandatory out-of-boundary programs (such as GT centers and high school academies). If we can save some money by changing the transportation parameters, shouldn't we discuss doing that separately, and then decide how the savings could be spent? For example, it's been reported that some teacher salaries may be cut by 7 percent to help deal with the school budget crisis. Maybe allocating supposed transportation savings to teacher salaries or adding funds to library budgets would be a more effective use of the funds.

Late Buses: High School

Facilities and Transportation Services (FTS) does not know right now what will be possible with late buses. For HS students, it is unclear whether late runs can be provided as often as they are now (usually twice weekly, although at some high schools this has been changed to once a week due to budget cuts.) That may not change. What will change is that late buses (and high-school drivers in their cars) would be on the road during rush hour. This increases the danger for HS drivers and lengthens the commute for all. It also increases traffic for everyone in the community, whether associated with the schools or not.

Late Buses: Middle School

At the SB meeting on Monday, Jan. 12, 2009, the FTS speculated that for MS, no one would probably want late buses because they are dismissed so late already. The bell schedule change would also diminish or eliminate the MS after-school program, which has been proven to improve academic performance and reduce anti-social involvement. One member of the TTF works with this age group, and changed from being pro-SLEEP to anti-SLEEP because of the negative impact on MS after-school programs.

Food Service

A change in bell schedule will likely increase the cost to Food Services to prepare meals. It will change the hours of food service workers. It also presents a challenge to providing breakfast for students with Free and Reduced Price meals, a breakfast which is federally mandated and funded. Currently, many HS cafeterias serve as hubs, preparing not only HS meals but meals for ES, MS, and surrounding neighborhood groups (Meals on Wheels, etc.). Since at this time HS starts first, these HS cafeterias prepare meals for all school levels and have plenty of time to get those meals to ES and MS. How are they going to get meals to ES by a 7:50 start time?

 

Private Facilities

Many FCPS students have activities at privately-run facilities after school.  They take part in tutoring, martial arts, gymnastics, fencing, ballet and dance, music and voice lessons, music practice, and more.  How will these private individuals and studios accommodate starting at a later hour?  How will they maintain their schedules and their income?  How will they keep their teachers, many of whom teach at more than one facility?  To say that these providers will "adjust," does not acknowledge the costs and hardships involved with those adjustments.