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Designed to Fail

Read up about how early school starts really got started and why it needs to stop.

Designed to Fail

It is crucial for the safety and healthy well-being of students to start schools later than the 7:00am hour. This problem is often trivialized as kids staying up too late or kids whining about hardships, but the facts are much more complicated than that.

Visit http://www.startschoollater.net/myths-and-misconceptions.html to learn more about this issue. Also, for a student to get 9 hours of sleep under the current schedule, they would need to be asleep by 8:30pm. With many students not arriving home from school events or sports until at least 9:30pm, this is not possible. Also, due to a shift in circadian rhythms, waking a teen at 5:30 for school is equivalent to having an adult wake at 2:30am to go to work.

Couple that with the darkness students must cope with while getting to school and it is hazardous. The current early school system schedules are a design to fail.

Since when do high school students need 3+ hours of sports practice every night? Since when is it OK to sacrifice medically researched sleep needs? Since when is it better to cut transportation costs at the EXPENSE of student health. Don't be fooled. These early school starts only happened in public schools when they streamlined busing schedules and recycled buses and drivers 30 years ago. While it was viewed as a cost savings boon, no one back then knew the long-range implications on sleep. Now, the research is too compelling to ignore. Let's stop sacrificing the real sleep needs of students to save a fast buck. We'd never restrict students from being able to eat, but yet we are restricting students from getting the sleep they need with these overbalanced schedules.

Ironically, sport programs expanded to fit the "extra time" kids had b/c they were out of school so early. Now, this expansion is somehow viewed as a requirement.

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Maribel Ibrahim October 27, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Terra, Phyllis and Kari, thank you all for clarifying all the issues. Casey does bring up the question of waking up elementary school-age children. It needs to be noted that elementary children generally follow an early to bed, early waking sleep schedule, so they are usually early risers. Teens on the other hand, experience a shift in this sleep schedule, due to hormones and puberty. This shift has largely been ignored when determining school schedules. While my 3rd grader happily rises at 6:00am, a teenager would have a hard time going to sleep before 11:00pm and waking before 8:00am. This is healthy, normal, and natural, not a function of laziness or wasting time. That said, I never have to "wake up" my kids, they are raring to go by 7:00am. Also, notice that my child WAKES at 6:00am. I wouldn't dream of having him or any other child of any age at a bus stop before the 7:00am hour. (My other two "sleep in" until 7:00am). Again, the focus is for ALL children to have a healthy school start time, including elementary students. NO student should be required in school before 8:00am. Unfortunately, our high schools have typically started the earliest, which is why they receive the "attention" regarding school starts and the brunt of this brutal scheduling.
Casey Cosgrove October 29, 2012 at 09:57 PM
First, if SLEEP is so "clear" on the issue of earlier elementary school starts, then why didn't SLEEP make sure this was stated in the school board resolution? It's curious that SLEEP only makes this "clear" when someone calls them on it. Second, according to the Statement of Work, the School Board (and by extension, SLEEP) is OK with 6 am wake ups for elementary school kids. The SOW says there shall be no civil twilight violations, which means that kids could be dropped off as early as 7am, meaning a 6 am wake up for elementary school kids. So, your "daylight" dropoff translates to a 6 am wake up - why isn't SLEEP "clear" on that little fact?
Casey Cosgrove October 29, 2012 at 10:00 PM
It's unfortunate that the written words by the Fairfax School Board contain none of these assurances. In fact, they would specifically allow 7 am drop offs of elementary school children, leading to a 6 am wake up.
Casey Cosgrove October 30, 2012 at 02:14 AM
Ahh, the anecdote, and one about your own children as well. I'm not saying this is your motivation, but stories like this could lead one to believe this is all about having the school system revolve around your children. I wonder how many other parents would like to wake up their elementary student at 6 am?
Phyllis Payne October 30, 2012 at 02:29 AM
Not really clear on what you are saying. "Drop off" would likely be close to 8 AM if buses are avoiding darkness. What time does your elementary school start? Elementary schools in Fairfax currently start between 8:00 AM and 9:20 am. This is referred to as a "rolling bell schedule" where one school starts as soon as possible after another. It will likely continue to be like this. SLEEP is advocating to keep elementary schools as close to their current start times as possible. The SOW was written that way to ensure that elementary school students would be waiting for buses after it is light outside. I think this is something that you have advocated for in the past? Are you encouraging the school board to maintain the 5:45 AM first bus pick-up for 13 and 14 and 15 year-old students? Or, would you like to work together on coming up with a solution that works for the high school students as well as the elementary students and the middle school students.

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