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Pediatricians call for later school start times

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement Monday recommending high schools and middle schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later.

The policy, published in the September 2014 issue of the medical journal Pediatrics, pushes for more rest for teenagers. The study describes the average American teenager as “chronically sleep-deprived and pathologically sleepy.”

The lead author of policy statement, pediatrician Judy Owens, also is the director of the sleep research team hired by the Fairfax County school system last year to create a proposal for pushing back the district’s high school start times.

“Studies have shown that delaying early school start times is one key factor that can help adolescents get the sleep they need to grow and learn,” Owens said.

According to the policy, more than 40 percent of the public high schools in the country start before 8 a.m. That includes Fairfax County high schools, where the opening bell rings at 7:20 a.m.

The Fairfax County School Board is set to vote on a final recommendation from Owens and her team in October. The plan would move high school start times back to 8 or 8:10 a.m. starting in the 2015-16 school year. But middle school start times would move earlier, to around 7:30 a.m.

Student-run charity holds backpack distributions

A student-run nonprofit is distributing new backpacks filled with school supplies at two events in Springfield this weekend.

The CLIPUS Foundation will hand out backpacks at Forestdale Elementary in Springfield on Friday and at Alternative House in Springfield on Saturday to help prepare children for the start to the new school year.

The events are the fourth and fifth such distributions held by the organization this year.

A group of high school students started the CLIPUS Foundation this past school year. Eight students from the Madeira School, Langley High School and Thomas Jefferson School for Science and Technology make up the core leadership team and organize more than 30 other volunteers.

The organization runs three separate programs to support the school supply distributions.

Through bake sales, the students fundraise and seek donations to purchase the backpacks and school supplies. They also collect used toner cartridges and sell them to recycling companies. Finally, they collect unwanted office supplies and reuse or redistribute them to students.

School crossing guards train for new school year

All Fairfax County school crossing guards met with traffic safety officers from the Fairfax County Police Department this week to receive training for the new school year starting Tuesday.

Nearly 100 crossing guards serve the school system. During the training, crossing guards received new uniforms and equipment, including new stop signs. They also received a refresher on their roles and responsibilities.

Many of the guards have served their communities for decades but had not had an opportunity to attend updated training, according to the police department.

Police department officials advised drivers to be mindful of students in their neighborhoods and build in extra commuting time for the start of school next week. Motorists who ignore crossing guard signals or fail to comply with safety measures near schools may be reported to uniformed officers.

— Kate Yanchulis