Teens need about nine hours of sleep per night for good health, focus, energy and academic performance — but on average, middle and high school students in Fairfax County are getting seven hours a sleep of night or less.
The results of the county's recent Youth Risk Survey indicate to founders and members of the advocacy group Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP) that while they've made progress in teaching parents and students about the importance of the issue, a sleep deficit still exists for many students, they said.
"Different children have different needs, but all children need sleep," wrote Phyllis Payne, who started SLEEP along with Evans in 2004, in an email to school board members last month.
At noon Friday, join School Board Member Sandy Evans (Mason) and Payne to talk about the history of the local and national movement, and other strategies the school board is exploring to give students more flexibility over their school day.
Friday also falls toward the end of National Sleep Awareness Week, an annual public education and awareness campaign run by the National Sleep Foundation.
In the past 14 years, two Fairfax County Public Schools Task Forces found in 1998 and 2008 respectively, that moving the county's high school start times to later in the day would benefit students and the larger community, and recommended the school system find a way to do so.
Out of those task forces came a cost-neutral plan to push back start times, which the board considered in 2009. But the concerns from other parts of the community about schedule changes being too disruptive mad the board pause — it didn't move forward with a decision.
"In my view, dealing with unhealthy high school start times remains a priority for teen health, wellness and performance and must be addressed," Evans said.
She introduced an idea at a board work session last month that would allow teens to opt out of their first classes and begin school at the start of the second period, if they could make up the credit in other ways, via online courses or dual enrolment at a community college.
But "the larger issue affecting tens of thousands of teen students remains," Evans said.
Fairfax SLEEP joined other sleep movements across the country in signing a petition promoting legislation that would ban schools from starting before 8 a.m. The petition is looking for 7,500 signatures before it is sent to Congress and President Barack Obama; as of Wednesday night, it had 5,071.
Join us at noon Friday for a live chat about the issue; revisit this page or sign up for an email reminder in the box above. Can't make the chat? Leave questions in the comments or sent them to erica.hendry at patch.com.
To read more on the sleep issue, click here.
Previous Live Chats: