Prince William high schools to start an hour later

All high school students within the county regardless of their participation in online or in-person learning will now start school at 8:30 am, instead of the typical 7:30 a.m.

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This story was originally published in Potomac Local News.

Prince William County high school students will be getting an extra hour of sleep this upcoming school year, as the division’s Superintendant, Dr. Steven L. Walts, has moved the schedule forward by one hour.

All high school students within the county regardless of their participation in online or in-person learning will now start school at 8:30 am, instead of the typical 7:30 a.m., and end at 3:30 p.m. instead of 2:10 pm. The decision took into consideration various parent and student surveys, the majority of which preferred a later school start time, as well as the health/academic benefits students, could reap, according to an email from the school division.

All 92,000 county public schools students will head back to class virtually beginning September 8.

“Surveys conducted of PWCS students and parents have shown that a majority prefer mid-late-morning to early afternoon to engage with content. There have been a number of studies demonstrating the health and instructional benefits of later start times,” stated an email from the school division.

Transporation and athletics, however, could theoretically be a limiting factor in implementing this new start time, according to Prince William County Public Schools.

“The most significant limiting factors in changing the start time are transportation and athletics. As we only have approximately 3.5 percent of total students attending in person the first nine weeks, and per [Virginia High School Lea there are no organized athletic competitions, we have significantly more flexibility than in a typical year,” stated an email from the school division.

This schedule change will apply for the first quarter, which will be fully virtual for the majority of Prince William schools’ students but could extend longer if the majority of students remain in virtual learning. If the school division reverts to a hybrid model or full in-person learning after the virtual first quarter, high schools will begin at 7:30 am again.

“If we were to move to the 50 percent model for the second quarter in November, then high school will revert to the 7:30 a.m. start time, and if we were to remain virtual, the later start time could remain in place,” stated an email from the school division.

Prince William schools are, however, looking into keeping this later start time in place.

“PWCS will still continue with the plans to study more in-depth the potential for a more permanent change for the 2021-22 school year or beyond,” stated an email from the school division.

More information on the schedules for the upcoming year can be found on the Prince William County Public Schools website.