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School Board Seeks Start Time Consultant

Vision outlined by ad hoc committee Thursday focuses on alternatives analysis, community engagement

The Fairfax County School Board took its next step toward later start times Thursday, asking staff to issue a request for proposal for a firm that will research and develop a specific plan

On a 10-1 vote, the board approved a document developed by the board's which outlines expectations and outcomes for the group that will guide the process.

Among them: reviewing the system's own history with later start times, ; developing optional approaches and alternatives to achieve a later start time; creating a "blue print for change" and leading a community engagement plan to solicit recommendations to the plan.

The full document is attached to this article.

Kathy Smith (Sully) voted against seeking a consultant, saying her opposition gave a voice to those who felt like the system should not spend money on the issue

Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) was absent from the meeting.

The consultant will be funded with the system's fiscal year 2013 transportation reserve, staff said Thursday night. Ted Velkoff (at-large) said the committee did not put a cost estimate on the contract, but instead would let firms come forward with a price for their proposals.

The move comes after 14 years of discussion and two formal attempts to address the issue on its own.

Board members passed a resolution by Sandy Evans (Mason) in April, creating a board goal of starting all high schools after 8 a.m; the ad hoc committee — including Evans, Ryan McElveen (At-large), Patty Reed (Providence) and Velkoff — then laid out a vision for the system's future consultant.

The vision described Thursday night asks a consultant to consider multiple approaches and analyze impact on travel time costs, transportation, school and sports schedules, and the length the school day when developing alternatives.

It also places weight on presenting those options to the community, and having the ability to revise options using that input. 

"This is an all-inclusive process," Reed said at a work session earlier this month, "An opportunity for everyone to engage in developing the solutions to some of these challenges."

Evans, who as a citizen co-founded Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP) in 2004 to advocate for later high school start times, said earlier this year a major flaw of the last review process was the board only had one plan to work with and did not use the feedback it received to develop other options.

Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) said Thursday night she hopes the focus on engagement reassures those who have said the board is rehashing an old problem that has seemingly exhausted its potential for solution.

"I think it's critical that there is a still a misperception that the board is ignoring [the last decision it made against later start times] in 2009," McLaughlin said about the issue at a July 9 work session.  "There's a myriad of reasons why the public rejected it. It just wasn't the right solution."

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Casey Cosgrove August 02, 2012 at 02:35 AM
Kathy, as to your point #3 above, the latest civil twilight is about 7 am for Fairfax County. So according to this SOW, it's a perfectly acceptable alternative to have elementary school kids dropped off at 7 am, meaning they are on the bus around 6:30ish, meaning they are getting up around 6 am. Is that acceptable to the community?
Joseck August 12, 2012 at 06:52 PM
FCPS can only drive one school level( High school) at a time. If there was enough transportation/ bus $ , they could drive any school at any time they choose. Right now if you changed the HS to late start the Elementary kids would have to be at the bus stops at 5:45AM!!! Would that be better???
diana bork August 26, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Yes, Hilarie, Sandra and Aliiee are right. I am also a FCPS mom. This proposed change is a no brainer if you have read the psychological and medical studies of the developing adolescent brain. I wish only parents (and adolescents) who have a horse in the race would comment on the issue. Far too many people comment on this issue who have no idea what they are talking about. This is a medical, health and safety issue, not a lazy kid issue. Children should not be required to stand out in the snow and rain in the dark waiting for a bus. I just wish the changes could be incorporated NOW instead of yet another study. There will be as terrible bus/car/child accidentbud, a kidnapping or a rape and only then will we see action Kathy, have you actually seen the kids huddled up and down Old Dominion in the pitch black dark waiting for their buses at 6:30 a.m. I have, and it's a pathetic sight.
Bendy Viragh August 26, 2012 at 05:05 PM
It seems to me that we elect School Board members to make decisions regarding the operations of our schools. They are supposed to be experienced, wise and knowledgeable (at least, that's what they say when they run for office) and represent the interests of all of us, the parents and the students. If they cannot make a simple decision, then the question comes up: just what are these people doing? Hiring a consultant to see what time school should start borders on absurdity. In plain English, it is called "passing the buck". Indeed, if these anointed Board members cannot make a decision or are afraid to make a decision, they should use their own money to pay for a consultant's services. Another novel idea for our overworked School Board members: why don't they, themselves, study available information, meet with parents and students, review other schools' experiences, study traffic problems, etc. - in short, earn their salaries.
Kathy Keith August 26, 2012 at 08:43 PM
To Diana, Of course, I have seent he kids out early at the bus stop--my own kids were among them. Of course, I don't like it. But, if you are worried about kidnapping, etc., I think my concerns would be a lot greater for elementary kids than for high school. All the options I have seen presented require for at least one level of schools (elementary, high, or middle school) to start very early. I would much prefer to see high school kids out in the dark than elementary ones.

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