Some Feedback Sent to the WAKE Fairfax Web Site

(names are omitted for privacy reasons; some letters are also excerpted or edited for reasons of privacy and clarity)

(Also see In the News for more published letters and articles;  Reading Material for research papers & statements, and Task Force for reports from the Transportation Task Force.)

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Letter (in response to amendments)   3/18/2009

Letter sent to school board 3/17/2009

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

Letter in Response to Public Meetings (from teacher/parent)

Letter from Concerned Middle-school Teacher

Letter from Concerned Parent at Woodburn Elementary

Letter from Child Psychologist

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(There are big) changes in the preschool and PAC (Preschool Autisum Class) schedules.  For example, the PS/PAC classes at Franklin Sherman ES will be on a 9:40 am to 4:20 pm schedule (currently 9 am to 3:30 pm), whereas the rest of the students at Franklin Sherman will be on a 7:50 am to 2:30 pm schedule.  In addition to the problems such a schedule will cause for the school's administration (almost 2 hrs. difference in the dismissal times), there are many reasons PS/PAC parents might oppose the change:  it affects afterschool therapy schedules, the kids are up very early anyway, it will be hard for the younger students to stay alert so late in the afternoon (already a problem with the 3:30 dismissal time), will affect the many PS/PAC teachers who are working on advanced degrees (from which the students benefit), etc. 
 
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Questions about the FCC PTA SURVEY: Does PTA Survey Represent All Parents & Teachers?
  • 77.4% of the responders described themselves as White and Non-Hispanic.  Fairfax County reports that as of 2006, only 67.9% of the county's residents are classified as "White."
  • 73.6% of the responders reported a household income of $100,000/year or more.  Fairfax County reports that in 2007, 53.3% of "Household" incomes were reported as $100,000/year or more; if the number is adjusted to "Family" income, the number only increases to 62.2% reporting $100,00/year or more.
  • 3.2% of the responders reported a household income of $50,000 or less per year.  Fairfax County reports that in 2007, 19% of households and 14% of families reported incomes of $50,000 or less per year.
  • 16% of the responders reported that middle or high school students provide after school care for elementary-aged students.  84 elementary schools are scheduled to be dismissed prior to 3:00 pm.  The earliest dismissal time for a high school is 3:20, and for a middle school it is 3:25 (Frost) with all other middle schools dismissed at 4:15 or later.
  • 19.8% of responders had elementary-aged children in SACC or other childcare.  Fairfax County reports that in 2000, 32.5% of the county was classified as having children age 12 and younger in day care or needing day care.
  • FCCPTA's goals include the following standard: "Sharing power - Families and school staff are equal partners in decisions that affect children and families and together inform, influence, and create policies, practices, and programs."  As of this e-mail, the Fairfax County Council of Parent Teacher Associations has yet to conduct a teacher survey regarding school start times.
  • Questions on the survey do not follow a unviersal format.
    • Question 1: Most FCPS HIGH SCHOOLS now start at 7:20 am, with bus pickups starting before 6 am. In your opinion, does the high school day currently start:  Too Early  Too Late  Just Right  No Opinion
    • Question 2: Most FCPS MIDDLE SCHOOLS now start between 7:20 am and 8 am, with bus pickups starting before 6 am. In your opinion, does the middle school day currently start:  Too Early  Too Late  Just Right  No Opinion
    • Question 3: FCPS ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS start between 7:50 am and 9:25 am. In your opinion, if more elementary schools started between 7:50 and 8:55, the impact on elementary students would be:  Good  Bad  Neither  No opinion

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There are 168,000 students currently enrolled in Fairfax County.
According to my research 46,519 of them are high schoolers and 118,124 are preschool, elementary and middle school age. There are also 22,309 employees whose schedule would no doubt change with this proposal. I am no math major but it seems to me we are sacrificing the needs of the many to meet the needs of the few.
Here is the link to the Fairfax County statistics.    http://www.fcps.edu/statis.htm

 
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To Whom It May Concern:
I am the mother of four, three of which will attend Stratford Landing Elementary, Carl Sandburg MS and West Potomac HS.  I originally supported SLEEP, but had I known the negative impact it would have on our family, I would never have supported it.  Although your web site shows elementary school beginning anywhere from 7:50 - 8:10 and ending between 2:30 and 2:50, our elementary school has a proposed start time of 9:20 and ending at 4:00 PM. 
This is an outrageous change for our elementary school.  Many young children wake early in the morning.  Correcting the biological clock for the high schooler at the expense of a first grader does not make any sense.  My son, like so many others his age, wakes early in the morning.  In his case, as in others, he will be up for two to three hours before school begins and then expected to pay attention until four in the afternoon.  I don't know many adults that can pay attention until four in the afternoon, let alone a 7 or 8 year old.  These seems like a recipe for failure.  When would elementary school children play?  Are all after school private activities to wait for Stratford Landing to get out of school?  What about programs at the Rec centers or dance classes.  What about sports? 
As for me, I teach preschool.  I work less than 30 hours a week and do not qualify for SACC.  To continue teaching, I would have to get day care for two of my children.  This would be an expense that we do not want to incurr nor do we feel we should have to incurr.  Teaching preschool from 9-12 has afforded me the opportunity to stay home with my children and work while they are in school.  With a middle school aged child beginning at 9:40 and a first grader beginning at 9:20, I will have to give up my job...a job I enjoy and care about very much.  My first grader will have very limited play after school because of dinner and homework.   How do we accommodate "play dates" for younger children when they can not begin before 4:30 in the afternoon.  Children need play.  Helping high-schoolers sleep in is absolutely not worth the impact this has on our family life, my job, and our children's opportunities to participate and enjoy after school activities.
 
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TO: FCPS Board of Education and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors,
     I am a sophomore at West Springfield High School. I play the tenor sax. in the school's marching band, the Marching Spartans. This past year, our practices have ended at 9:30pm. I get home at 10:pm. On average, I have 2 hours of homework a day, and I complete all of this nightly, in order to keep up my 4.0 gpa. By starting school later, WSHS will get out at 3:20pm. This means that marching band will end at 10:40pm. If I get home at 11:00pm, the earliest I can go to bed is at 1:00am. By moving starting times forward, you are simply forcing students to go to bed later, which will not give us any extra time to sleep. Although the concept of SLEEP is in an attempt to help us students out, it will only make our schedules more hectic.

PLEASE DO NOT SHIFT OUR STARTING TIMES LATER,

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As a working parent of a middle and elementary school student - and the spouse of a FCPS teacher and coach, I am VEHEMENTLY opposed to the SLEEP proposal on so many levels, it literally boggles my mind. It was exhiliarating to see that I am not alone!  Unfortunately, I am finding that many elementary schools are not taking a stand, let alone informing parents of the impact this change will have on them. At a recent PTA meeting, this issue was raised [briefly] . . . and the majority of parents were under the mistaken impression that this only affects high school start times!  I know the parents that I have spoken to personally were also equally unaware of the impact this will have on them.  We were told at the PTA meeting that the Fairfax PTA has come out in favor of SLEEP - are [local PTAs]  being told not to address this issue individually or to take an official position?  I find this troubling as well and would like to know what other's experiences are with their PTAs?  Regardless of whether this change is a positive or negative for your family, everyone deserves to have accurate information.
 

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Regarding the later high school start time proposed by SLEEP, it would be interesting to learn what, if any, input was sought and received from Fairfax County high school coaches, marching band directors and drama department heads.  Participation in sports, music and the arts requires a significant amount of organized practice time.  Under the existing bell schedule, practices for these activities begin between 2:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. and last three or more hours each day.  Homework and studying consume the rest of the evening, keeping these same teenagers up until midnight or later.  Adjusting the high school start time will delay the above schedule by several hours with the result of an even later bedtime.  There are only a certain number of hours in the “day” and if the high school start time is later, I imagine it will not be long before coaches, band directors and drama department heads begin requiring morning practices if the available hours for evening practices dwindle.

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This year, I have two children [in secondary school] (7th and 10th grades) and I respectfully request that you vote AGAINST changing the school start times. Below, I list a dozen reasons supporting this request.

Alternatively, if there aren't enough votes against the change in start times, I suggest a DELAY in the vote until you can study other impacts besides transportation.

Finally, if you have to approve it, then please consider delaying implementation for one year to give time to prepare properly. [F]or many of the following reasons, I think the Board needs to seriously consider a delay, at the least, until issues besides transportation are researched.

My concerns can generally be grouped into Transportation Task Force report concerns /before and after care concerns /athletic impacts.

  1. My biggest concern is the major split in the transportation task force (TTF). Of the 24 Agrees, 19 were parents, 3 were community representatives, only 2 were teachers. Of the remaining 18 that abstained or disagreed, 16 were FCPS or county employees. I find this divergence very disconcerting – showing a line of parents vs teachers/employees. I know parents have a strong voice in Fairfax County, but I think you need to pay close attention to the employees’ concerns.
  2. I am also especially concerned about the membership of the TTF. My concern is that the task force may have represented many different geographic areas and community groups, but the more diverse parts of the FCPS population, the disadvantaged families or ESOL or FRL families, were not well represented on this group. I also think reaching out via INTERNET SURVEY will NOT reach these disadvantaged families. How do you plan on getting feedback from the more disadvantaged populations in Fairfax County?
  3. Just because the transportation study found a solution to transportation issues, it is not OK to ignore other issues. The TTF spent thousands of hours researching transportation solutions. Has anyone spent even half as much effort to research impacts on other aspects of start time changes such as before/after care and athletics?
  4. The transportation no-cost solution includes some "efficiencies", including some bus service cuts. If these efficiencies were applied to the current system, would the transportation solution truly be a no-cost solution?
  5. The SACC program is against this. This will add to the demand for their services – and it will make it much more difficult for them to staff their SACC centers in the morning. The morning sessions at some schools will be less than 30 minutes. I was a SACC parent for 10 years – I feel very lucky to have been able to rely on their services for so long and volunteered on their parent advisory committee - they are doing their best with limited resources – please don’t tax them more.
  6. Also on the subject of child care, many families "tag-team" child care – one parent gets the kids to school and the other parent goes to work very early in the AM so they can get home in time for their elementary student that comes home about 3 pm. This will be more difficult to manage if elementary schools release much earlier than now.
  7. If the Board votes for changing the times, please delay implementation for one year so FCPS will be able to reach out to special populations to make sure they understand the changes. I will NEVER forget the day when a non-english speaking mom and her K or 1st grade non-English speaking son, came into [our] elementary after school hours (I was probably there for a PTA or a boundary meeting). The mother held up a Thursday Folder and you could tell she had no idea what this was or what she was supposed to do with it. Since it was after school hours, and none of us spoke Spanish, none of us could help her. Your surveys and your task forces will NOT reach these families. FCPS will have to do a significant amount of outreach to make sure the ESOL and other disadvantaged populations understand the changes. Will you provide resources as other school systems have to help with the transition – has this been budgeted? For example, from Appendix U – page 14: ". . . an information telephone line was set up prior to the start time change to answer parents’ questions and gauge the community’s attitudes about the change. " Also, I noted that the other school systems in Appendix U were not as large, or complex, as FCPS.
  8. It will be difficult to measure the impact of school start time changes since you have voted to change the grading system. Some school board members expressed concern about creating a bigger gap in grades between advantaged and less-advantaged students. Changing start times should also be considered as potentially creating gaps.
  9. Impact on athletics – I don’t want this to be seen as an athletics vs. academics issue – but I believe these are some significant athletic impacts:
  10. Most freshman sports will be impacted by this change. For volleyball/basketball/field hockey, games are scheduled sequentially: 4 pm (freshmen) /5:45 (JV)/7:30 (Varsity). Discontinuance of freshman sports was a proposed budget cut – so you will get this by-product if you vote to change start times.
  11. Some sports will move practices to before school, thus negating all that SLEEP advocates. Some sports will move practices to later, also causing later home arrival times.  Some sports will have practice and game times cut back significantly because of unlighted venues (tennis, for example).
  12. Currently, [our] Secondary athletes have time to visit teachers before practices begin – this study hour will be discontinued.
  13. I am lucky that [our school] is a secondary school and my rising 8th grader will start at 8:35 with his rising 11th grade sister. If [my son] had to wait until 9:40 to start a regular middle school, he would be home alone in the morning, and I am sure guitar hero or ESPN could distract him enough that his no tardy record would be tainted! I would have to make several calls home each and every morning!
  14. Many of my children’s teachers are against changing start times.
  15. Finally, my kids are against it – I am listening to them.

 Many years ago I was FOR changing times, but as I age and experience high school, I have come to disagree. I am lucky because if start times are changed, I would be able to adjust – we live so close to [our school], my kids get up at 6:15 and I get them to school by 7:10 – I work 1 mile away and can change my hours easily. My 10th grader plays varsity sports – so she won’t feel the freshman team losses – my 7th grader doesn’t play sports where freshman teams exist (he wrestles and plays baseball) so my family won’t really be affected – and we will be able to adjust fairly easily. Unfortunately, I don’t think I am the typical parent.

I know most of my comments are expressed in the TTF minority report – they are real issues that need to be studied. FCPS should no longer consider itself a nice suburban school system, we are an URBAN school system and urban school systems need to think about impacts beyond just educational implications – child care and after school activities are real issues that need to be studied.

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 I saw the article about the potential change of bell schedule for schools. The change also has potential impact for everyone whether children in school or not. If it is implemented approximately 10,000 cars [students, teachers, staff] and all high school buses will be moved into the middle of morning rush hour and beginning of afternoon. That has the potential to change a lot of folks' commute. High school folks are now "safely" in their parking lots, usually by 7:00 and would be arriving either very early or between 8:00 and 8:30 and then leaving between 3:30 and 4:00. Since high school bus routes cover larger areas they are usually on main arteries, while many elementary and middle schools are more inside communities. I wonder if people without kids in school have considered any of this? 
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Thank you for creating your website. I did not know it existed until a coworker informed me. My perspective is that of a teacher and parent who commutes to teach for FCPS. To go along with the many other great reasons to oppose the time change, I ask that you include the change's effects on the quality of teachers employed by FCPS. It is common knowledge that FCPS employees who aim to raise a family in a single-family home with property and live within their means are priced out of Fairfax County real estate. It is common practice for a newly-hired teacher in FCPS to start out renting within the county, only to eventually buy a home outside of Fairfax County as they experience life's milestones. Even with the current conditions of the school system, FCPS attracts "cream of the crop" teachers. Many of these out-of-county or even out-of-state teachers are parents, who teach others' children and then return home to spend time with their own. The goal of any great school district is to retain its quality teachers and limit the number of transient workers. Since the current school schedule is vital to the commuting teacher, changing it would create hardship and flux within the employee body. The end result would create a greater flux within the county's own Transfair system for those teachers jockeying for a schedule that better suits their lifestyles. Worse yet, many commuting teachers would make the choice to reduce their own salary and benefits to work closer to their own homes. Overall, this dimishes the quality of teaching available to the FCPS which, ultimately, negatively impacts the quality of student education in Fairfax County schools.

The following is a letter I've circulated to the superintendent, school board, and the presidents of the teacher organizations of FCPS.

Dear Dr. Dale,

[I] am a health and physical education teacher at [a] Middle School in Chantilly, Virginia. I have been employed by FCPS over the past nine years, and I enjoy working at the middle school level. Two nights ago, I watched your interview on channel 9 news concerning the proposed time change for FCPS schools. While this proposal has apparently been discussed over the past 5 years, this news report was the first time I've heard of such a proposal.

While I do realize that this proposal is still in the discussion phase, given that upcoming town meetings have been scheduled, I would ask that you greatly consider employee input along with the parent input that has already been publicized. I'm writing to you as a 9-year employee who resides in Warrenton, Virginia and commutes 50 minutes one-way to work each day. I am not alone at my middle school. We have many staff members with out-of-state license plates in our parking lot. We have quality teachers who drive from southern Maryland, northwestern Virginia, and the Stafford-Fredericksburg area of Virginia. It is widely recognized within the FCPS community that the cost-of-living in Fairfax County has led to the migration of its employees. My wife, who also is employed by FCPS, and I chose to live outside Fairfax County because we did not want to raise our family in a townhouse or condominium. We cannot afford a single-family home in Fairfax County on salaries earned by two FCPS employees. Now that we have a 2 year-old daughter and a son due in April, living in the Fairfax County community is even less likely.

Our lifestyles have conformed to the current FCPS time schedule. I do not have to commute with the rest of the metropolitan area under the current daily schedule at [our] Middle School. I leave for work by 6 am each day, with the reward that I will be able to spend my late afternoons with my wife and daughter. Under the proposed 9:40-4:30 change for [our school], I would potentially spend hours in my car each day commuting to and from work during peak rush hour times. I would devote 9 ½ to 10 hours to Fairfax County Public Schools and 2 hours to my daughter. I teach  because I enjoy the people and the schedule. The proposed schedule change forces me and others to consider other employment options to hold onto the things that we value—like family time.

At first glance, this proposal seems to be a local issue, but clearly it is not. Your school system draws quality teachers from other county districts within the region. The early start time of its schools is one reason why teachers choose to commute to Fairfax County instead of seeking employment in their local communities. Certainly, there are a great deal of variables (such as sleep and time management) that affect a child's education, but ultimately, FCPS will be as great as the curriculum it has to offer and the teachers who are qualified to teach it.

 

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Activities cannot really be moved to before school because transportation for before-school activities will not be provided. For example, if a teacher holds a study session after school now, and they move it to morning, students with the luxury of on-call transportation (stay-at-home moms, self-employed parents, and the like) could get there but students who rely on the school bus could not get there. While those students could get home from staying late (either by taking a late bus or because parents can pick them up at the end of the work day), they cannot as easily get to school early. Mandatory activities (such as athletic and band rehearsals) CANNOT be scheduled before school because those activities would then not be available to all students since transportation is not provided. There will be no early buses - those buses will be carrying ES students. This would have a disproportionate negative influence on those with lower income.

The current no-cost change proposal does NOT take into consideration the added time for travel during rush hour BOTH morning AND evening. Facilities and Transportation Services has NO IDEA how to estimate that until they develop the actual schedule. Right now, they are working from a model.

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As a parent of two grade schoolers, one middle schooler, one high schooler, (and one in college), I have to say that while I am concerned about lack of sleep for my middle/high school students, there would be absolutely NO gain in my household for switching my grade schoolers to the earlier bus schedule. In fact, it would be worse for younger kids to have to get up well before the sun and stand out to catch a bus in the dark. I also do NOT like the idea of them coming home and being unsupervised until the older kids get home since I am a working mother.

While the way it is now it not perfect, changing things would only make it MUCH WORSE. I am also concerned about the impact on the sports programs at the high school level since one of our children plays soccer for the school. The games are late enough as it is.

I have a simple solution for the middle/high school students to get enough sleep—GET TO BED EARLIER! We have lived through this early school start for years [in our household] and the answer is for parents to just turn off the TV, take the video games, cell phones, and internet out of the bedrooms, and just say, "Go to bed." If they are tired enough, they will fall asleep. This, by the way, means winding down the whole household. If we had no electric lighting, we would all be going to bed after sundown and getting plenty of sleep. (You may quote me on this).

I appreciate your consideration of my opinion and hope that you vote to keep things as they are—not perfect, but working.

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One member of the school board has said that he doesn't care what teachers want in regard to this proposal. Perhaps he underestimates the amount of time and assistance teachers provide gratuitously every day. Middle and high school teachers, whose day would end the latest according to this proposal, routinely stay after school with their students to offer extra help and tutoring, to sponsor clubs and organizations, and work on other committees. Many teachers have said that this could come to an end under the new proposal. If middle schools were dismissed at 4:30, staying after to help a student would put a teacher in school through the dinner hour and would force them to have longer commutes, something teachers will not be willing to do if it interrupts their daily lives. They will not be willing to continue to work for free for a school board that doesn't care what teachers want or think is best for the school system.

Many of our teachers cannot afford to live in Fairfax County, and commute long distances to school. Some have said that they would be forced to leave the county and seek employment in neighboring counties closer to home because driving those long distances in rush hour only adds time to their commutes. Fairfax County has had this current bell schedule for twenty years. To totally disrupt the lives of many families and disrupt their day care situations is a grave injustice.

Even people who do not have children in the school system are opposed to this proposal which would put middle and high school busses on the road through the height of rush hour, adding unnecessary traffic to our already clogged roads.

A survey of my students has revealed that they overwhelmingly are against this proposal because it would result in the elimination of some of their sports and after school programs, interfere with jobs, and cause them to be at school throughout the evening in order to participate in their activities.

Some elementary school bus schedules would have elementary school students being picked up as early as 6:55 in the dark on many days. This is not a safe situation.

While everyone would like to sleep in a little later in the morning, the costs are just too great to make it worthwhile for students, parents or teachers.

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TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN AT W.A.K.E.:

This was my response to a principal that asked the staff it's opinion concerning later starting times. I am a parent of two Fairfax students, have 34 years of club sponsoring and band directing and have taught 17 at Mt. Vernon H.S., 13 years at Robinson Secondary and after retirement part-time teaching posts at Oakton, West Potomac and Annandale. I have been expressing my position with the parents who started this movement since 2004. Please see some of my statements below.


I have been lobbying against this early start issue for five years. The group of parents who rep. the sleep movement seem to insensitive to the effect this will have on teachers who sponsor/coach and kids who stay after school. Below are some of the negatives I have been vocal about:

1. Teachers who live far from the school will now be in traffic as they depart school.


2. The sports that need to practice outside will now be in the dark when they finish. Not every school has enough lighted areas for all sports and band groups.

3. The students who have part-time jobs will have to work later or not have the chance to be employed at all.


4. I have polled my students and they say if school was to start later then they would just stay up later...counter to the concept.

5. The impact that this will have on families with elementary kids is shocking. They will have to get up at 6:00 a.m. and then what about after school care????? Additional hours of sitting time.

6. I dare say that many young teachers will have to take a long look at coaching as they will now live even longer at school. This will put many of them home on week-nights after 8:00 p.m. Long Days!

7. This will hurt groups that go home and come back to school to practice in the evening at school past 10:00 p.m.


8. What about administrative coverage at events that will have to start later.

All of the studies the sleep group sites seen to be one sided. The teachers, administrators and students who spend many hours after school need to voice their opinion.

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. . . . another point not supporting the schedule change:

Every study I have read gives the primary factor for teenagers not getting enough sleep as the electronics in their rooms. BEFORE looking to the schools to fix a parenting issue (not stated diplomatically, I realize), parents should remove the computers, cell phones, DS's, and all other gaming and communication devices out of their children's rooms.

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From a Parent and Teacher

With respect, I am strongly against the proposed changes to the FCPS school schedules.

1. While most of the region is trying to figure out how to reduce rush hour traffic, we would be moving more traffic into rush hour. The amount of sleep gained by the schedule change would not be a one-to-one trade. We would all be spending much more time in traffic, clogging the roads, burning more fuel, and spending less time with our families.

2. The hardships and expenses would be disproportionately placed on families with two working parents. They would be the ones faced with reworking their lives and routines to accommodate a few extra minutes sleep by the high school students. The emails we receive in support of SLEEP state that everyone can "adjust" to the new schedule. I find this a very selfish attitude. Please also note the demographics of the SLEEP survey that is so highly touted.

http://www.fccpta.org/trans_survey/Final2008SurveyResults90108.pdf Only 19% of the respondents used after school care.

3. If it is so important that high school students get to sleep a bit later, then make the changes without regard to cost. Buy more buses and hire more drivers to do it without throwing off everyone else's lives.

Thank you.


 

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The original study was done in Minneapolis. During the winter months, the sun rises later and sets earlier than it does in DC (approximately 30 min less daylight hours than we have). Circadian rhythms are dependent on exposure to light, especially sunlight. If our area has more sunlight (starting earlier, in fact) wouldn't it make sense our students would not be as susceptible to sleepiness as the Minnesota kids?

http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/astronomy.html?n=263

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I have a daughter in 9th grade and have polled several of her friends. None of them want to see school start later. They feel an hour is not going to make a positive impact on their day. The children feel that they have more to lose: sports, theater, band and their part-time jobs. Has anyone bothered to ask the children. Please make the survey available to all FCPS SGA's to get a student's prospective.

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Dear School Board Members:

I think this idea of changing the start time for HS is not a good one. [. . .  . ] I don't see any positive impact that this will have on our children. I only see an adverse affect. Instead of having sports after school they will be forced to have practice before school, maybe between 6 and 8 AM so they'd have enough time to show before school starts. Many sports would have to practice in the dark. Is the county going to provide lights for our practice fields, lights the tennis courts or how about the safety of our track teams running on dark streets during RUSH HOUR! This IDEA IS TERRIBLE!

Has the county thought about the additional traffic on our roads if school starts an hour later. Rush hour is bad enough in NVA but, having our inexperienced drivers on the road at 8AM is not a wise choice. What about our teachers that drive from Loundon County or Maryland what will there commute be like? What is the impact for parents that depend on their HS student to be home when their younger siblings come home from elementary school. This will put an additional financial drain on our working families.They will need to find additional daycare. The SACC programs offered at elementary schools are impossible to get in now. How will the elementary schools adjust to the increased demand for child care?

Before you make any changes please consider the above mentioned concerns. Have a focus group with student athletics, band members, SGA, clubs and other organizations that meet regularly after school. I think you will hear a message from all. DO NOT MAKE ANY CHANGES TO OUR STUDENTS SCHOOL SCHEDULE.

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(I) am Director of the Tennis Lesson Program at Fairfax Racquet Club. We have over 600 kids in our Junior Program. If the start times for school days changed next year about half of the kids would no longer be able to go to their tennis classes after school. For most of these kids, this is their only chance to improve their games so that they can have a chance to play High School Tennis.

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I was recently made aware of the proposed changes to school start time that is being voted on by the Fairfax County School Board and I am very concerned.

As the parent of a 4th grader who will now have a start time of 7:50 and a bus stop time before 7:30 in the morning, I wonder whether the task force and SLEEP organization have considered anything other than the high school students they want to give an extra hour of rest each school day? I wonder whether anyone has thought about how dark it is at 7:15 in the morning in the winter when we will be sending children as young as 5 to cold bus stops? I wonder if they have thought about the parents who will not put up with that and will instead be driving their children to school, greatly increasing the number of students in the kiss and ride lines and not using the buses paid for with tax dollars? I wonder if they have considered how many parents will drop their kids off a couple of blocks from school and send them down the walking paths to the elementary school to avoid the much longer kiss and ride lines creating a dangerous situation of road side drops and young children crossing streets not patrolled by crossing guards? I wonder if they have considered how traffic will be impacted in the neighborhoods when even more elementary school locations will be opening early as opposed to the centrally located high schools on major roadways? I wonder if they have considered that those who would have no choice but to use the bus stops will be waking their young children up in the dark to get them ready for school and sending very tired youngsters into a long day of learning, many with little time to even digest a quick breakfast?

I wonder if they have considered the families of middle school students who will now start nearly 2 hours later in the morning at 9:40 and who has duel working parents? Those parents who currently leave with their 12 and 13 year old students in the morning to drop them at school or the bus stop on the way to work, I wonder if anyone has considered how many latch key very young teens we will have left at home in the morning now, to eat, dress, lock their houses and walk to bus stops hours after their parents must leave? I wonder if anyone has considered the safety nightmare that creates for parents who must go to work and leave a middle school student home alone. I wonder whether anyone has thought about the late dismissal time for these middle school students who will not be getting home until after 5 in most cases, after the bus drops them off. I wonder if anyone has considered how dark a bus stop is at 5 in the evening in the winter months. I wonder if anyone has considered that these middle school students would be walking home in the dark from the bus stops in the evening. I wonder when they think these students will participate in organized after school sports programs such as CYA and SYA and the many other wonderful opportunities these children have now within the school system? I wonder when these students will eat dinner, do homework and have family time? I wonder if anyone has thought about the parents who come home from work and will have to compete with the increased number of buses on the highways adding to the overly congested rush hour in the after 4:30 evening time frame.

I wonder about the school’s staff that will have to arrive at all of these elementary schools hours earlier than before? I wonder about the young teachers who make little to begin with, who will have to drop off their own kids in day care centers long before the sun rises to get to work on time? I wonder if anyone has thought about the staff families at the elementary schools that this will impact so significantly.

As you can see, I wonder about a lot of these questions, and I wonder when someone is going to address them? It seems to me, that the school board is willing to listen to parents of high school students only, parents who don’t want to have to wake up their young adults to get to school in the morning. Parents who don’t realize that their students will go off to college and have early classes and have to get themselves up anyway. It seems to me that in this overly indulgent and affluent county, we are yet again giving in to our complaining teens with an extra hour of sleep instead of raising them to toughen up and accept that the world does not revolve around them. It seems that we are sacrificing thousands more younger students for the sake of one extra hour of sleep for high school students.

Finally I wonder why the school board has not informed the thousands of families this new program will be creating challenges for. I wonder why we have to pick up a local newspaper and read about it in the couple of paragraphs this was given? I wonder when the school board will start working for all of the families in all income brackets with children in multiple schools. I wonder when they will not use the almighty dollar bottom line to make all of their decisions and think about the students, parents, families and school staff that this decision will impact. I think we elected them to do more than just move around busses and combine routes to say this will save money too in a thinly veiled attempt to justify the changes. I think we trusted them to take care of all of the students in the system, not just the high school students who don’t want to get up as early to go to school. It looks to me, based on test scores, like we have some of the best and brightest kids in the nation graduating from our high schools and attending top colleges and universities and that is across the board, not just at select schools, so what is our real goal here? Less complaining from our high school teenagers at home? That is what I wonder.

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Thanks for your site! I am against the SLEEP initiative. Do you have a petition to sign?


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Sent to each School Board Member
Responding to the Jan. 6 Metro article "Fairfax Plan Would Delay High School Start at No Cost". A "no-cost" solution? I think not. What about the cost of altering all those commutes causing severe disruptions for families, teachers, such as the availability of older siblings for after-school care of younger siblings, student work opportunities, schedules of FCPS employees, including teachers, administrators, transportation and all support services, as well as FCPS employees who work a second job or who take classes at nearby institutions.

What is the gain?

Teachers report that the late start time does not provide a sufficient amount of prime time learning in the morning. Also the late start time seemed to communicate to personnel and students that learning was not a priority. At the other end of the day, middle-school walkers would now be walking home in the dark, which is a major safety issue. In addition the proposed changes will have strong negative impacts on important student extra-curricular activities. A majority of FCPS middle and high-school students participate in these activities..

 

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Regarding the bell schedule change; I have had children in Elementary, Middle and High School levels at the same time. I would have to say from my personal experience that MS was not a problem for my children it has been the early High School starting time of 7:20. I could only really imagine the proposed bell schedule change to include Elementary and High School.

Middle School is should remain the same. If the plans for the future include any form of after-school academic remediation/activity, which has become so vital; pushing the day any further would strain both students and faculty.

 

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I am a MS teacher with ES and HS kids. They are not happy with the proposed changes. They put in their feedback. I compiled it with issues that custodians, other parents and my students have raised. Here they are- certainly the site includes many of these- see if there are some that need to be added. Thanks for this forum.

This change in start time has been a point of discussion for some time. I have always thought that HS starts too early for many of those kids and backed a change like this- in theory. HOWEVER, this proposal, in an attempt to be at zero cost, raises many issues that will greatly affect us, our own kids, our students and the community. I truly feel that the range of bus times to allow for this proposal is too broad and hurts a lot of groups. The group with the greatest affect, I think, is MS. Although it has potential, to make it work right, it may require money- something we don’t have. I believe it has potential if there was a bit more available in transportation- so that there could potentially be a before school program and so that school start times and end times could be closer together. As it is, some MS students would not get home until after 6. Extracurricular activities as is are pushed often to outside the school day and now would basically be eliminated. I see many other issues that without more detail and feedback will have significant unexpected consequences.

  • Elementary daycare issues- elementary kids will be home 2 hours earlier- no provisions to expand SACC, older siblings not home to help.
  • Older kids with more homework will get home in time for dinner and not really have time for homework. HS/MS buses get kids home at 5 or 6 and then dinner by then too tired to do homework. Parents too tired to help.
  • What about older kids who have jobs and need afterschool jobs and can’t work anymore?
  • What about quality of home life?- some kids not arriving home on buses from school until after 6 pm.
  • No after school program at MS- what about music and arts and rehearsals for theatre and music programs? What about kids who need extra time at school for access to technology?
  • MS kids are involved in many after school activities and lessons outside of school including Tae Kwon Do, sports, music, tutoring services, dance, volunteer work, language school. They will no longer be available to take these.
  • What about parents with students at all levels of school- when will family time/dinner time be? Middle school kids will be home late and elementary kids will be hungry and have to be going to bed earlier to wake up so early.
  • What about day care issues for all- especially FCPS staff who will have their hours shifted suddenly and may not be able to afford care for their children? MS teachers will also be traveling daily- sometimes far distances in peak traffic times after work. This is a huge morale issue this year with the budget already tight and no addition of Step or COLA.
  • What about custodial staff? Will they have to work after midnight to accommodate for the change in times?
  • What about ES teachers who are accustomed to hours and have trouble coming to meetings early being asked to make such a drastic shift- often also creating daycare and lifestyle changes?
  • How will meetings be arranged? Will faculty meetings etc. be before MS? How much past end time with MS teachers be expected to stay? How will parent meetings be arranged?
  • How will Central Office Hours change/be impacted?

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George Mason University starts classes at 4:30. With the later bell schedule, thousands of teachers will not be able to further their education and take university classes.

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(I) am opposed to the currently proposed SLEEP initiative. A couple of ramifications that have not been addressed are, # 1. If you throw approximately 15,000 additional automobiles into the Northern Virginia gridlock that currently exists during rush hours you will now have a total traffic jam on local highways. Increasing our travel times to and from work daily. # 2. 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. # 3. The after school programs in middle schools, that have contributed to the educational success of many students on SOL test scores, would have to be cut. These programs were set up in an effort to prevent gang activity from spreading throughout the communities. Walkers would now be walking home in the dark, which is a major safety issue. # 4. Younger siblings will be going home to an empty house - "latchkey kids" - where parents now depend on their High School or Middle School students to be there to watch them. # 5. 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.

We are not opposed to adjusting the start times so that high school students can sleep longer in the mornings, just redesign this initiative as the minority report suggested. The problem is that the vote was nearly 50/50 by the Task Force Committee yet no one has given any weight to the minority report; nor has it been publicized. There are at least 3 members of our school board who are totally in favor of SLEEP. Do you think that this might be why no one is looking any further for a palatable answer?

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One thought that may have a bit of pull in keeping the bell schedule from changing...

With the addition of thousands of teachers, parents, and students on the road at 5:00, traffic throughout the county, will be greatly impacted. Perhaps WAKE could contact Fairfax Department of Transportation to get a comment? I would imagine the increased traffic volume on the roads would affect all of Fairfax County's citizens trying to get home in time for dinner -- and therefore create more accidents, congestion, and headaches for VDOT and commuters alike.