The above graph displays the number of hours of sleep a student gets a night on average.
The above graph displays the number of hours of sleep a student gets a night on average.

By JAKOB COLE

After much anticipation and speculation over the years, in the near future, Stuart and other high schools in Fairfax County could see a change in the start time of their school. Over the past decade or more, there has been an increased awareness over this issue and its beneficial effect on students. Proponents of this issue believe that teenagers are not are waking them up to get ready for the bus. says Dr. Judith Owens, Director of Sleep Medicine and Children’s at the National Medical Center located in Washington, D.C. “Forcing them to ignore this biology disrupts getting enough sleep each night to perform to their best ability at school. As the week goes on, the child gets more and more sleep deprived.”

“The deepest REM sleep takes place during the last third of sleep, just when we the sleep cycle, sometimes dangerously.” To show their true devotion to this issue, FCPS recently paid the Children’s National Medical Center $143,000 to develop a plan to accomplish the proposal.

The Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP) which proposes to change the start of school from 7:20 A.M. to no earlier than 8:00 A.M. SLEEP started in 2004 and now has been brought to Stuart to spark a change much needed by students. “Adding an extra hour or so to my sleep would make the world of a difference,” said sophomore James Ford-Lane.

Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza recently has shown enthusiasm for this change. Board members in support of the change along with the Children’s National Medical Center presented their “Blueprint for Change” to Garza and the board earlier this month. However, if voted in favor, a county-wide change will probably not be ready in time of the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

A report on Jan. 13 from the Children’s National Medical Center team working with Fairfax County medically determined that the change would make drastic, beneficial improvements to students’ lives. However, the logistics of the change are what are most difficult.

With this proposed change, there is a huge trickle-down effect. From transportation changes, to practice schedules for athletic programs, to after school clubs, to afterschool jobs, all school activities will be affected.  “It will be a lot harder to fit in all sports practices and games after school,” said junior Neil Beausoliel. This aspect of the proposed change is the main factor hampering the chances of a change happening in the near future.

Making a county-wide change at once also would be a financial toll for the county, considering the $130 million budget deficit that it is currently facing.

Some believe that if school is pushed backed an hour that the students will just sleep an hour later. However, that is not the case in near counties that have made the change.

Arlington and Loudon County schools have been showing great academic results from their students since their change. The results of the student survey revealed that high school students felt more alert and prepared. The high school teachers noticed improvement in alertness and participation. Not only that, attendance at school in both counties has drastically increased.

We know the students want a change; that is a given. Countless medical studies have shown that a change would be helpful for students’ performances academically and in other daily activities. However, finding a balance between transportation schedules, afterschool activities and the wellness of student health will be a challenge.