In a program designed to help teenagers get more sleep, seniors in Fairfax County, Va., can opt out of as many as two first-period classes as long as they are on track to graduate and can find their own way to school.
About 650 students or 5 percent of the 2014 seniors in the county are participating. In Fairfax classes begin at 7:20 a.m. In other nearby counties, classes begin at 9 a.m.
“Fairfax’s “opt-out” program — unique in the Washington area — is a first step toward giving county teenagers additional rest. Parents and advocates for later start times have been arguing for years that early school starts are detrimental to teen health and that even an extra hour or two of sleep could make a real difference. Critics have said that changing the schools’ schedules would be expensive and a logistical nightmare, requiring more buses and more time spent battling traffic on the country’s most congested roads.
“School Board member Sandy Evans (Mason) said the program is a “modest step” in her quest to push back the first bell in high schools by at least one hour after years of failed board attempts to change start times across the county.
“Evans said that the senior opt-out program was created after a February School Board meeting and that the program formalizes an unofficial practice parents had employed. For years, Evans said, some students got out of first-period classes after their parents got a note from a doctor citing health reasons requiring their children to get more sleep.”
Students and parents are noting higher energy levels, better moods and the ability for the students to get through classes, activities and homework. Opponents of the plan think that the students sleeping in are missing opportunities to take AP or other challenging courses to impress colleges.
My favorite part of the story is that parents used to send in doctor’s notes to excuse the students from first period citing the need for more sleep.
So what do you think: Would like the option of your senior sleeping in? Do you think it would help their endurance and mood? Would you send in a doctor’s note to get that time? Should all high schools starts later to work with teenagers’ sleeping patterns?