Virginia Parents Lobbying For More Sleep For Their Sleepyhead High School Students

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start school laterAs someone who used to lay down on the bathroom floor after getting dressed for high school just to get a few extra minutes of sleep, I think that this proposal by some Fairfax County, Virginia parents is a great idea. Parents are lobbying to get the start of the school day at Annandale High pushed back so that students get more sleep and can be more focused in class. This idea, SLEEP Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal, has been around since 2004 and parents are still trying to get it to pass.

Parents and teachers gathered at Annandale High School Tuesday for the county’s  first “Sleep Night,” where a sleep expert presented findings from her study on a  school that moved to a later start times.

“Adolsecents aren’t hard wired to go to sleep much before 11 o’clock. We also know  they need about 9 hours of sleep,” says Dr. Judith Owens, director of sleep  medicine at Children’s National Medical Center.

The school day at Annandale currently starts at 7:20 a.m. and parents are hoping to have a start time of after 8 o’clock. A caveat to the plan is that the bus routes would have to be changed. Other school districts in the area have already implemented a later start to the school day and, in addition to Fairfax County, two school districts in Maryland are also joining the cause:

Parents in all three school districts have circulated petitions that now have  thousands of signatures asking for earlier start times for high school students.

Owens told parents Tuesday night that 80 percent of adolescents get less than the  nine hours of  recommended sleep. However, 71 percent of parents think their teenage child gets  enough sleep.

I’m not sure why it has taken so long for this change to happen. A later start time would make it easier on parents who are dragging their kids out of bed every morning and hopefully make the students more alert and not so zoned out in their morning classes. I know in my case that I would’ve appreciated the extra time with my towel pillow on the tile floor.

(photo: Iancu Cristian / Shutterstock)


  1. alice

    February 27, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    7:20AM sounds grossly early.

    But i assume the idea is so that parents can shuffle their kids off before they themselves get to work. I imagine if it were the opposite: that my parents went to work BEFORE i left for school, that I would have accrued enough skip days to warrant expulsion in my first three months. 🙂

    • Paul White

      February 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

      That’s my thought as well, but I’d still push for a later start time. I grew up in a rural county with one high school, and some of my classmates had to be on the bus by 5am to get there for our start time. Which is just utterly godawful for anyone, let along a 15 year old.

    • Blueathena623

      February 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      My son is only 1, but I’m still already trying to figure out ways in a couple of years how to get him to school without using the bus. We’re in the very tip top of our rural county, and the school bus comes at 6 and doesn’t get home until 4:30 which is a hella long day for anyone, much less elementary school kids.

  2. Eileen

    February 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    I started high school at 7:35, although my bus usually got me there by 7:15 or 7:30. But that meant we were done at 2:20, which gave us time to do activities/have jobs after school. Win some, lose some.

  3. ChopChick

    February 27, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Virgina? Really? Did you turn off your spell check!? Come on mommyish!!

  4. jef3r

    February 27, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    I objected to this proposal when it was debated a few years ago. The reason? Because in order to make it work for the high schoolers, it meant changing the middle school start time to 9:30. That late of a start time for middle schoolers meant they weren’t getting out of school til 4:30. I have major problems with that. #1 – that puts hundreds of cars and buses on the roads during rush hour. As if rush hour around here is not bad enough already. #2 – we have an after school program that provides academic help and extra activities for hundreds of kids every day. A 4:30 end to our day eliminates that program. Not only do the kids need to get home for their activities, but teachers do too. #3 – the change to the bus schedules put elementary schools going the earliest. This also meant they got home first. This creates a daycare nightmare. Thousands of families rely on older siblings to watch their younger siblings in the afternoon. What are they going to do when the elementary kids are getting home first??? I work in an area where most of my students come from single family households and are low income. Paying for daycare for those kids isn’t an option.

    I have no issue with the high schoolers shifting their start time in theory (although when they surveyed the students, a majority of them did NOT want the later start time as it interfered with jobs and sports). What I have issue with is screwing the rest of us over in the process. The county needs to suck it up and pay for more buses to be running at the same time if they’re going to make this happen.

    And FYI – they tried later start times in Florida. Before the school year was out the entire plan was scrapped as it was a major disaster and they went back to the early start times the following year.

  5. CrazyFor Kate

    February 27, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    In my town, high schools used to start at 8:30, and eventually they moved to 9:00. The dropout rate plummeted pretty much instantly.

  6. Kitiem3000

    February 28, 2013 at 1:54 am

    We begin school at 9 here, but I could’ve done with an extra half hour back then.

  7. KCulby

    February 28, 2013 at 5:52 am

    There are a number of factual inaccuracies in this article/post. Foremost, SLEEP stands for Start Later for Excellence in Education. The effort is county-wide, not just at one high school. And, there is no mention of the overwhelming evidence that improving student performance in school (and allowing them the opportunity to develop healthy living habits) is the primary reason to consider the later start times.

  8. Terra Ziporyn Snider

    February 28, 2013 at 8:51 am

    The three school districts that have joined forces in the DC Metro area are not just in Fairfax County, VA, but also in Montgomery County, MD and Anne Arundel County, MD. A new petition in nearby Howard County, MD already has over 1,000 signatures. And these groups are all part of a larger, national coalition called This is an issue that local groups, including school districts and boards of health, have tried to address since the 1990s, but it may take collective action on a larger scale to resolve the problem. And remember: these early hours are not only counterproductive and harmful according to vast amounts of research but they are also not the norm. We only moved school clocks back about 30 years ago to save money on bus runs. Now that we know the harm we’re doing to children and communities, we need to return to more traditional, healthier hours.

  9. Maribel C. Ibrahim

    February 28, 2013 at 9:11 pm

    Ms. Malone, the issue of later school start times is much more widespread than just Virginia. As Terra’s post below mentions, we are part of a national grassroots movement to establish healthier, safer school start times.

    There are many myths and misconceptions regarding later school start times, such as kids staying up later, expensive transit solutions and basically teaching kids responsibility with these early school starts. Read on here for answers to those myths:

    There are also schools in 25 states that have made the change and have met with success. You read all about them here:

    Start School Later, Inc. is involved in local communities, statewide efforts and national advocacy and education on this issue. We have 11 local chapters covering Wisconsin, Florida, Washington State, Maryland, Michigan, Texas and Ohio and we are all advocating for later school start times because school students should not go to school in the dark and against their biological sleep needs.

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