Fauquier County Public Schools consider later start times

The recommendation to start the school day later for middle and high school students in Fauquier County was formally presented to the School Board in June by the School Support Council (SSC). Made up of representatives from each school and open to the public, the SSC meets once a month with Superintendent Dr. Jeck to discuss topics of interest. Later school start times became an active topic when the SSC decided to research the issue last fall.

“We presented the results of our research to the SSC and Dr. Jeck in February and he said, ‘I came here tonight prepared to poke holes in everything you said, but I can’t find fault with any of it’,” SSC member Judy Olsen said. “He has always said that his concern about a change is one of logistics.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), made up of over 60,000 pediatricians, released a formal statement in August that recommended teens should start school after 8:30 a.m., renewing interest in the topic within the county. Five years ago, some parents worried about the health impacts of sleep deprivation on adolescents and advocated change.
Teens go through a biological time shift, making it difficult to fall asleep before 11 p.m. and wake up before 8 a.m. According to a study done by the National Sleep Foundation, less than 15 percent of teens get the recommended eight and a half hours of sleep on a school night.

On August 22, a CBS news crew followed junior Kaiya Olsen’s efforts to cope with the effects of sleep deprivation. Side effects can include physical problems with obesity, high blood pressure and depression, as well as poor academic performance.

“They were there following my daughter around, and then they came to our house to interview and film us there. The story aired on Aug. 25 on the national evening news,” Olsen said. “Every news station that day had a story about the [AAP] report.”

Nationwide, only 15 percent of high schools start at or later than 8:30. Principal Tripp Burton, who once worked in Loudoun County where the high school day runs from 9 to 3:50 p.m., understands the complexity of county-wide scheduling changes.

“It’s a complicated issue and they have to consider a lot of different factors,” Burton said. “The benefits speak for themselves, especially what it does for high school students. I know there’s a movement and I’m very interested to see what will happen.”

Cathy Beaulieu, of the SSC, is brainstorming ways to get information about later school start times and the benefits out to the community and works closely with Olsen. They believe high school students can make an impact.
The School Board will decide whether to move forward on the proposal if there is interest in the community and plans to conduct a survey of students, teachers, and parents.

“High school students can really be a voice of change for this,” Beaulieu said. “In my opinion, this change is way overdue; it’s not an issue of whether it’s going to happen, it’s just a matter of when. The sooner we get this change made, the more students can benefit from it.”

Some athletes opposed to the idea worry about the time lost at the end of the day for practices and that a later start time may cause practices to run after sunset.

“If there was a later school start time I’d get out of practice later,” senior Nick Tyreman said. “I’d still have the same amount of homework, and I’d get the same amount of sleep.”

However, Olsen says that creative scheduling options will accommodate athletes and students with after school activities; an example might include shifting the A+ period to the end of the day.

“The initial reaction is ‘everything will just be shifted later,’”Olsen said. “There are creative solutions, like having a flex period at the end of the day so athletes can leave early for practice, alternating practicing in the morning before school, and shortening the school day.”

Olsen would like to see the formation of committees to study major areas of concern, such as athletics, child care, and transportation. Fairfax County has decided to make the change to later start times effective next school year, after a 10-year process of studying the issue.

“I don’t think it needs to take that long,” Olsen said. “Even a half hour later, I’ll take anything I can get.”

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Football takes unexpected turn

The football team’s season took an unexpected turn on Oct. 10 when Principal Tripp Burton distributed letters to the team and their parents explaining that head coach Jamie Carter would not continue coaching.

Athletic director Mark Holmes is standing in as the head coach and math teacher Mark Scott and physical education and strength coach Ryan Bailey are the new assistant coaches. Scott’s approach to coaching is slightly different than Carter’s, but he is confident that the team can move forward.

“The big thing is for them to believe in what we’re trying to teach and accomplish with them because there are some minor differences in what we’re doing and what coach Carter was doing,” Scott said. “I want them to understand that even if we don’t win, we want to get better and hopefully [in the future] we have an even better chance at winning.”
Although Carter’s sudden absence has shaken up the team, senior Spicer Sabruno believes he and his teammates can make this situation positive.

“We’ve had to deal with a lot of adversity, but I honestly think the team’s gotten closer in his absence,” Sabruno said. “A lot of things have changed; we have a lot of new assistant coaches, our program is moving in a different direction now, and we’re just trying to get the good things out of this situation.”

Senior Zach Evans concurs.

“He was a big part of our team and we lost him, but now we’ve also gained other coaches who can really help out, so it could be for the better,” Evans said. “At first we thought it would slow us down, but it’s kind of picked us up and leadership has really emerged.”

Scott stepped down as head coach three years ago because of the time commitment, but felt compelled to fill in for Carter because he believes he has a duty to the school community.

“I did feel a little bit of an obligation to step up and help the kids. I wanted to make sure they were getting the best out of their experience,” Scott said. “It’s fun for me because I have a lot of things I can correct and teach. I enjoy the game planning, working all week and then getting that one opportunity to execute it.”

The student-run fan section, the Zoo, has also been doing its part. Senior Louis Heisler remembers the homecoming game and the students’ cheers that helped push him through a rough last few minutes to lead the team to victory.

“I love the Zoo. Half the fun of the game is listening to them cheer,” Heisler said. “Whenever I’m breaking down or anything, it’s in the back of my head and I’m listening for the little screams.”

The team is a little over halfway through the season with a record of 3-4. Despite the distractions, coaches and players are keeping their sights on playoff season and for Scott, a strong team mentality.

“As a staff we’re going to work towards holding them accountable for what their assignments are,” Scott said. “I’ve already talked to them that, this season, moving forward is not about whether we win or lose. It’s about getting better every day and learning the life lessons about working, persevering, and coming together as a team.”

Unravel the thrilling mysteries of ‘The Maze Runner’

The mysterious and mind-boggling story of The Maze Runner, James Dashner’s dystopian novel, came to life on screen in a way that offers thrills and chills and intellectual satisfaction. The story throws a bunch of innocent boys with no memories of their pasts into a mysterious location dominated by a maze and monsters, and filled with terrors yet to be discovered.

Forced to start from scratch, the boys form a government to keep themselves safe from the Maze and each other, creating a functional society to help them find the way out. Sounds a little like Lord of the Flies, doesn’t it?

When the main character, Thomas (Dylan O’Brien), wakes up in a metal box that transports him to the Maze, he meets at least 30 other boys who also have had their memories wiped. The oligarchical government imposes strong standing rules; their number one rule is: no one is ever allowed to enter the Maze at night. Ever. At this point, the viewer knows just as much as Thomas knows about the Maze and its purpose: nothing.

Thomas becomes a runner, one who maps the Maze by day to find a way out before the walls close at night. The boys haven’t had much success in the past two years, and the group suffers from frequent attacks of the Grievers, large CGI monsters that inhabit the Maze. Hope that they will ever get out is diminishing.

When the girl Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) appears, it’s a signal that the boys’ society is about to unravel.
What stood out on screen was the unbelievable CGI and the perfect casting. When the Maze appears, it’s surreal. The CGI depicts the monstrosity of the Maze as described in the book to a tee. The actors are almost as Dashner created them on paper. O’Brien really made Thomas come to life on screen, and it was nice to see him act as something other than a high school heart throb in MTV’s supernatural thriller, Teen Wolf.

The casting was outstanding and the chemistry between the actors creates sympathy in the viewers. In fact, since the boys don’t know much about their situation, viewers also feel confused and disorientated; you feel as if you are stuck in the Maze. This is especially true at the beginning of the movie when events and developments are fast and furious.
The movie never actually answers the questions you may have had at the end of movie which allows for a potentially satisfying sequel. People who enjoyed the exciting ride of the Hunger Games will enjoy the mysterious journey of The Maze Runner. The movies are similar in their dystopian set-up and involve the sacrifice of children. In the Maze Runner the reasons for the sacrifices are mysterious, but the suspense is comparable to the Hunger Games. Just try to keep up and know that “if you ain’t scared… you ain’t human”.

Having read the book, I appreciated that the movie respected the literary version. James Dashner created such an unusual dystopian world, and director Wes Ball captured it perfectly.

~Emma Spector, photography director