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FAQ

This page will be used to list Frequently Asked Questions related to the School Start Times Change, scheduled to take place in August 2016.

Why is the school system changing start times?

Theory and research indicate that starting school later will be beneficial for the academic achievement and health of teenagers, while the same theory suggests that elementary students should not be adversely affected by an earlier start time.

What does the research say?
Findings from organizations such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and National Sleep Foundation (NSF) conclude that:
  • Adolescents need about nine hours of sleep per night for optimal academic performance, health, and brain development
  • Hormones that help regulate sleep make it difficult for most teens to fall asleep before 11:00 p.m. or to be alert before 8:00 a.m.
  • Sleep plays an important role in learning and memory and sleep debt affects teens' ability to think, perform and react appropriately
  • Later high school start times result in adolescents getting more sleep on school nights
  • Benefits of later school start times include decreases in teen depression, car crashes, behavior problems, discipline referrals, absenteeism, tardiness, and dropout rates.
  • In contrast, there has been no conclusive research on the benefits or disadvantages to an earlier start time for elementary students.
When will the change take place?
The change in start times will be implemented for the 2016-17 school year.

Which school systems have made a change?
A national list of schools that have made or will make the change including information about the results is available at http://www.startschoollater.net/success-stories.html

How would schedules change?
The adopted schedule is as follows.


Current Schedule

Approved Schedule


School Hours

Range of School Pickup Times

School Hours

Range of School Pickup Times

Elementary

9:00 – 3:30

7:45 – 8:08

 8:00 - 2:30

7:00 – 7:50

Sec. - Middle

7:40 – 2:25

6:25  - 7:00

8:50 – 3:35

7:40 – 8:40

Sec. - High

7:50 – 2:35

6:25 – 7:00

8:50 – 3:35

7:40 – 8:40


Is there a cost associated with the change?
It will cost approximately $26,000 to add one additional route in the Auburn area. This route likely would have needed to be added if start times had not changed.


Athletics/Secondary Opportunities


What are the release times of schools with which we typically schedule activities?
Although there are a variety of schedules, most of the schools have release times between 3:15-3:40.

How will extracurricular clubs and sports practice times change?
- In most cases clubs and sports activities will be scheduled one hour later than the 2015-2016 school year.
- Typical practice times will be scheduled between 4-10 pm (which is one hour later than typical practice times for the 2015-2016 school year).
- Morning practices will not be allowed unless they are required due to the facility restrictions (ex: swim and dive).

How will student athletes be impacted by early dismissals from class?
Our goal will be not to release students from instructional time for regular season games and activities. However, as is our current practice, occasionally it is required for students to leave early due to facility requirements (ex: golf, indoor track, etc.)

How are game times determined for VHSL activities?
Each district is responsible for setting practice times for events. Schools work together to coordinate start times based on their individual needs, currently we typically schedule events to accommodate later release times of our opponents.

How do facilities impact practice and game times?
As is the reality with our current schedule, facilities details such as the number of available gyms, lighting of outdoor facilities, etc., have a large impact on both game and practice times.

Will the new schedule make it more difficult to find coaches?
A later start time may provide more opportunities for coaches employed outside of MCPS and/or elementary teachers to coach without leaving work early.

Will there be any additional scheduling considerations for student athletes?
MCPS will explore the possibility of expanding college zone study hall eligibility to include in-season athletes.

How will Governor’s School students be impacted?
Students will attend from 8:00 a.m. to 10:57 a.m. (an hour later than our current schedule).

Calendar

Will the change in school start times affect the calendar year?
The change in school start times will have minimal effect on the school year calendar. The calendar committee will recommend to the board that the elementary-only early release days currently scheduled in the 2016-17 calendar be changed to all early release days. This recommendation will be presented to the school board for their approval in March or April.

Childcare

Where can I find a list of childcare providers?
MCPS has compiled a list of childcare providers based in each community. This list is not all-encompassing nor does MCPS support or endorse any of the options listed.  

What if I can’t find affordable childcare?
Please contact the Virginia Department of Social Services website for financial assistance information.
https://www.dss.virginia.gov/family/cc/index.cgi or (540) 382-6990

Will there be before school child care for middle school students?
A survey is being administered to families who will have middle school students next year to determine the need for child care. Our local childcare providers, including Adventure Club, have expressed an ability to provide middle school childcare if there is a need.

When will school buildings be open before the start of the school day?
The buildings will open thirty minutes before the school day begins, the same schedule that they operate under now.

What will be the earliest bus pick-up time? 7:00 AM
This coming summer, 2016, families can visit the MCPS website for specific bus route information for the 2016-2017 school year.

Is there a legal age for children to stay home alone?
At this time the Commonwealth of Virginia has no law regarding the legal age of children to stay at home alone. It is each family’s decision about whether to leave a child home alone. The links below are for childcare articles regarding what to consider when making the decision to leave your child home alone.

Safety

Will my elementary child be waiting for the bus in the dark?
In 2015-16, our estimated earliest pick up time for secondary students is 6:25 a.m. Students are presently waiting in the dark from August through March. According to the Civil Twilight Sunrise/Sunset calendar for 2016-2017, students can expect to wait for buses in the dark from October through early March with the estimated pick up time of 7:00 a.m. In November and February, students can expect to wait in the dark for fewer than five days. They can expect to wait in the dark for fewer than ten days during the months of December and March. The times include a five minute wait time at the bus stop.

What is Civil Twilight and how what affect does it have on wait time at the bus stop?
Civil dawn is the time at which there is enough light for objects to be distinguishable, so that outdoor activities can begin. Morning civil twilight occurs while the sun is still below the horizon, so prior to the official time for sunrise.

What are some safety precautions I can take while my child is waiting for the bus?
- Students should wear reflectors on back packs or clothing while waiting for the bus.
- Buddy systems should be encouraged for older elementary students when possible. Children should walk and wait together at the bus stop.
- Adults in the neighborhood may create a watch list of individuals who can provide supervision at bus stops.
- Neighborhoods and communities will continue to be patrolled at the same level by law enforcement. All of our law enforcement agencies are dedicated to increasing their presence when needed.

Does MCPS have any policies or guidelines for student safety at bus stops?
A parent or guardian should accompany their child at the bus stop and consider meeting younger elementary children during the afternoon drop off. The transportation department will continue to evaluate each pick up site for student safety. When returning children home, bus drivers to not drop off students in preschool, kindergarten or first grade without a parent, guardian or other responsible party being present.

How will the change in school start times affect our school resource officers?
The SRO schedules will be adjusted as necessary in all jurisdictions to comply with the change in start times.

How will the school safety zone signs be adjusted to accommodate the new start times?
The time clocks located in the signs are managed by MCPS maintenance crews. They will continue to control and monitor the accuracy of all school signs. Law enforcement will also check to ensure the signs are working properly.

What effect will the change in start times have on my teenage driver?
Our local law enforcement is confident that traffic patterns will improve because elementary students will be dropped off earlier instead of during rush hour. High school drivers will not be driving in rush hour traffic and will be more alert while driving.

Student Achievement

- Will a change in school start times effect academic performance?
- Will a change in school start times effect attendance?
- Will a change in school start times effect discipline?
- Will a change in school start times effect student alertness?
These are all questions that the student achievement team will answer as the change in school start times is implemented. Research tells us that the change has a positive impact on academic performance, attendance, discipline and student alertness. However, the student achievement team is creating a set of metrics that, over time, can be used to determine what impact the change in school start times has had in these areas. The committee has specifically mentioned that these will be good indicators, but that it is difficult to assign a change in these areas only to school start times.


Transportation

Will my (elementary) child be picked up before 7 a.m.?
No student will be picked up prior to 7 a.m.

How can you assure my child will be safe so early in the morning?
Safety should not be impacted. Parents are responsible to get their child to and from the bus stop currently and that policy will not change. There is normally less traffic during the early route time frame so we anticipate it could be actually be safer in some areas.

Will there have to be more bus routes added to make this change work?
No bus routes will be added to accommodate the school start times change. A representative from the computer routing company also reviewed the proposed routes to ensure validity and reliability.

Will there be any significant changes to the current routes?
We do not anticipate any significant changes to the bus routes. We evaluate the routes every year for efficiency. As a result, some minor changes can be expected every year.

What time will my middle or high school student get home?
The time a specific student will get home depends on how early or late they are in the bus route. On average, our routes last no longer than one hour. The time will vary, but a majority of students would be expected to be home by 4:35 p.m.