Whole Child in the News: A County in Flux over Its High School Start Time
A recent article in the Washington Post demonstrates that it's not always easy to determine which education policies will do the most to support the development of the whole child. The article describes how Virginia's Fairfax County Public Schools is weighing the pros and cons of a proposal to push back high school start times to give teenagers more opportunity to sleep. Sounds good; right? Kids will be healthier because they'll get more sleep, and they'll be more engaged in their classes as a result. What's more, the school system has designed a cost-free and efficient start schedule.
But some parents have expressed concerns that the new schedule could jeopardize kids' involvement in after-school sports and clubs, which also promote student health and engagement. Some sports, like swimming, use facilities operated by the county, and the schedule change could pose problems in balancing school and community use of the facilities. And safety could be compromised if kids are practicing sports or heading home in the dark.
So what's Fairfax County to do? Here at the Whole Child Blog, we emphasize that it's not enough to put in place a jumble of uncoordinated activities to try to make sure kids are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. This means that if the later start time in Fairfax is approved, the school system will need to work hard to ensure that sports and clubs are still available to kids and that the participating kids will have options to get safely home after dark.
Another important point is that decisions like this one shouldn't be made in isolation. It's critical for students, parents, and the community to have the opportunity to express their opinions and influence the decision-making process. It seems like Fairfax is on the right track; the article states the school system will collect public opinion via several town hall meetings and electronic surveys for parents, students, staff members and others before it makes the decision.
Has your community faced a tough educational decision like the one Fairfax County is facing? What was the decision and, in your opinion, was it the right one? Were you given the opportunity to voice your thoughts?