Update, May 16: The new bell-schedule plan has been called off. The district said, “We have heard from many families who are concerned about the proposal to change school start times.” However, the update added that, because of the ongoing bus-driver shortage, bus service would remain somewhat limited. Here is the most recent update from the district.
Seattle Public Schools is proposing a change to school start times for the 2022-23 school year.
The district proposes switching to three start times — 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. — saying that it’s necessary in order to provide bus transportation for all students. Seattle, like district around the country, has struggled with a shortage of bus drivers.
Under the existing system, most elementary schools start at one time while K-8, middle and high schools start at another time.
The new system would have three start times and, it appears from a draft schedule, all K-8s would start at 9:30, most middle schools would start at 8:30 (but Denny at 9:30), all high schools would start at 8:30. The 7:30 start times would fall largely to elementary schools (43), although 17 elementaries would be in the 9:30 tier (and four in the 8:30 tier).
The district, seemingly responding to parent reaction, updated its website on May 5, saying, “We are slowing down the decision-making process so we can continue to identify ways to alleviate the concerns that have been raised.”
In addition, on some documentation, 7:30 a.m. has been struck through and replaced with 7:40 a.m., but the district has emphasized that these are draft times and that the entire plan is preliminary.
The topic of kids and sleep, as it relates to school schedules, has been getting increased attention lately. The proposed schedule would appear to largely fit with the trend toward later start times for adolescents. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, has called for middle schools and high school to start no earlier than 8:30 a.m. In an article on the subject, it says, “the evidence strongly implicates earlier school start times (ie, before 8:30 am) as a key modifiable contributor to insufficient sleep, as well as circadian rhythm disruption, in this population.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has weighed in, saying, “Schools that have a start time of 8:30 a.m. or later allow adolescent students the opportunity to get the recommended amount of sleep on school nights: about 8.5 to 9.5 hours.”
Seattle Schools updated its start times in 2015, partly because of the sleep issue.
Seattle schools schedule change: PTSA weighs in
The Seattle Council PTSA posted a statement on the topic April 30, saying, in part, “The community is quite concerned with the proposal to move back to a 3-tired bell system.”
It went on to say that concerns included the need for morning child care, wildly ranging start times within individual families and pushing afterschool activities even later.
The statement goes on to say, “Seattle Council PTSA (SCPTSA) shares these concerns and the frustration at the lack of community engagement and opportunity for feedback from communities across the district.”
It called for an extension of the deadline timeline, along with demanding more information about how the plan came about and why the district believes it is the best solution to the transportation problem.
One parent, responding to a Seattle Council PTSA Facebook post, said, in part: “The science is clear – for middle-school and highschoolers later start times are essential for learning. They reduce truancy. They increase grades. … One solution for this might be to give all the middle-school and high-school kids ORCA cards instead of dedicated school buses.”
It is unclear whether the timeline of a School Board vote on the plan May 18 is still in place.
School is set to start in Seattle on Sept. 7, 2022. (Kindergartners start on Sept. 12.)
Seattle schools schedule change: What do you think?
We would love to hear parent opinion and feedback on this plan. How would it affect your family? Are you for or against the proposed new school schedules? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and please indicate whether you are willing to be quoted by name.
Published May 8, 2022