School Board Seeks Start Time Consultant
Vision outlined by ad hoc committee Thursday focuses on alternatives analysis, community engagement
The Fairfax County School Board took its next step toward later start times Thursday, asking staff to issue a request for proposal for a firm that will research and develop a specific plan to push all high school start times to 8 a.m. or later.
On a 10-1 vote, the board approved a document developed by the board's Ad Hoc Committee on Start Times, which outlines expectations and outcomes for the group that will guide the process.
Among them: reviewing the system's own history with later start times, including 1998 and 2008 reports; developing optional approaches and alternatives to achieve a later start time; creating a "blue print for change" and leading a community engagement plan to solicit recommendations to the plan.
The full document is attached to this article.
Kathy Smith (Sully) voted against seeking a consultant, saying her opposition gave a voice to those who felt like the system should not spend money on the issue in the face of an expected deficit in fiscal year 2014.
Elizabeth Schultz (Springfield) was absent from the meeting.
The consultant will be funded with the system's fiscal year 2013 transportation reserve, staff said Thursday night. Ted Velkoff (at-large) said the committee did not put a cost estimate on the contract, but instead would let firms come forward with a price for their proposals.
The move comes after 14 years of discussion and two formal attempts to address the issue on its own.
Board members passed a resolution by Sandy Evans (Mason) in April, creating a board goal of starting all high schools after 8 a.m; the ad hoc committee — including Evans, Ryan McElveen (At-large), Patty Reed (Providence) and Velkoff — then laid out a vision for the system's future consultant.
The vision described Thursday night asks a consultant to consider multiple approaches and analyze impact on travel time costs, transportation, school and sports schedules, and the length the school day when developing alternatives.
It also places weight on presenting those options to the community, and having the ability to revise options using that input.
"This is an all-inclusive process," Reed said at a work session earlier this month, "An opportunity for everyone to engage in developing the solutions to some of these challenges."
Evans, who as a citizen co-founded Start Later for Excellence in Education Proposal (SLEEP) in 2004 to advocate for later high school start times, said earlier this year a major flaw of the last review process was the board only had one plan to work with and did not use the feedback it received to develop other options.
Megan McLaughlin (Braddock) said Thursday night she hopes the focus on engagement reassures those who have said the board is rehashing an old problem that has seemingly exhausted its potential for solution.
"I think it's critical that there is a still a misperception that the board is ignoring [the last decision it made against later start times] in 2009," McLaughlin said about the issue at a July 9 work session. "There's a myriad of reasons why the public rejected it. It just wasn't the right solution."