School Board meeting: ANOTHER change to the start-time plan

Monitoring the Seattle School Board meeting that’s under way now (live on cable channel 26) – the proposed start times have changed yet again before the formal presentation and vote later in the meeting (as part of a transportation plan) – the official presentation is here; it now calls for elementary schools to run 9:30 am-3:40 pm, middle schools, high schools, and most K-8s (including Pathfinder) to run 8:15 am-2:45 pm. We’ll add the vote here when it happens, as well as any other major developments from tonight’s meeting. 7:14 PM: Denny and Sealth students spoke during the public-comment period to express opposition to cuts in the Proyecto Saber program. Another West Seattle note – a presentation under way now about the future of special education mentions “more middle-school autism services in West Seattle.” Also, West Seattle board rep Steve Sundquist is asking why the district did not respond to a community request to offer the Spectrum gifted-education program in a West Seattle elementary school (Arbor Heights has been suggested – right now West Seattle’s only official elementary Spectrum program is at Lafayette in the north end); the staff response was that the closure process caused some bumps in the feedback process, and that explanations of the denial will be forthcoming “now that everything is final.”

8:16 PM:
COO Don Kennedy is in the middle of the start-time/transportation presentation, and clarified that those times are not necessarily hard-and-fast school bell times but the basic transportation-related times so there may be some variations at individual schools, but not too far. (“Clarified” may be a misnomer, still working to be clear on this one, probably will require post-meeting followups assuming this plan is approved tonight.) Superintendent Dr. Maria Goodloe-Johnson said that it’s not usual for something to be introduced and voted on during the same meeting, but said time was lost because of the closure process and if the vote on this is put off till early April, parents won’t have full information till after the enrollment period closes.

8:41 PM: One data point – Kennedy says this plan would take 49 school buses off the road. School Board president Michael DeBell is impressed.

9:25 PM: The proposal was approved.

9:50 PM: District lawyers just noted that a hearing is set April 1st for a lawsuit against the sale of the Fauntleroy schoolhouse; this came during a discussion of other sales and challenges, current and prospective, to them.

11:35 PM: The district has issued a news release with language further attempting to clarify the “start time” issue – read on for the full text:

School Board approves new Transportation Service Plan
New Bus Arrival Times begin fall 2009

Seattle – At its meeting on March 18, the School Board voted to approve changes to transportation service standards for 2009-10. These changes mean that bus arrival and departure times will change this fall. Some changes, especially for most K-8 schools, are significant.

The changes will maximize operational efficiency, provide more consistency and reduce transportation costs by $2.2 million. Other changes will reduce rides times for many students. The changes for fall 2009 are:

• Middle schools, high schools and most K-8 schools (Alternative School #1, Catharine Blaine, Broadview-Thomson, Jane Addams, Madrona, Orca, Pathfinder and South Shore): Yellow buses will arrive at the schools at approximately 8:15 a.m. and depart at approximately 2:45 p.m. Principals will have the flexibility to adjust their specific school arrival and departure times within a narrow window of time in conjunction with the transportation service standards.

• Elementary schools, plus Salmon Bay K-8 and TOPS K-8: Yellow buses will arrive at these schools at approximately 9:30 a.m. and depart at approximately 3:40 p.m. Principals will have the flexibility to adjust their specific school arrival and departure times within a narrow window of time in conjunction with the transportation service standards. Salmon Bay and TOPS are included in this second tier because current bus routes for these two schools are longer than all of the other K-8 schools. Including these two schools in this tier will help ensure that younger students will not need to wait for buses in the dark.

“Creating consistent bus times across the District is important in increasing our operational efficiency and reducing transportation costs,” said Board President Michael DeBell. “These changes will reduce the amount of time students spend on buses, save Seattle Public Schools $2.2 million annually and move us closer to the goals of our strategic plan, Excellence for All. These are decisions that need to be made now, during our Open Enrollment period, so that parents and families can determine the best school and schedule for their children and their family.”

The new bus arrival and departure times allow “tiering” of buses, which means that each bus will drive two routes in the morning (one secondary or K-8 followed by one elementary) and then do the same in the afternoon. With the current inconsistencies in arrival times, most buses can only drive one route in the a.m. and one in the p.m.

In addition, many routes will be streamlined so that ride time will be reduced for many students. Currently, many routes serve two or more schools, which lengthen the total ride time. All K-8’s and many elementary and middle schools will have dedicated routes under the new system.

The benefits of the proposal to students, families and the school system include:
• Reduced ride times for many students.
• Consistency of bus arrival and departure times.
• More consistency of drivers, which is beneficial to providing a positive climate on each bus route (one of the reasons for driver turn-over is that many of our routes do not provide a full day of work – with this change, we will be able to offer more hours per driver).
• Savings of approximately $2.2 million per year in transportation costs. With Seattle Public Schools facing a $25 million budget gap for the 2008-2009 school year, this savings helps minimize budget reductions at the classroom level.
• This plan will mean that Seattle Public Schools will run 49 fewer buses while serving approximately the same number of students. In addition to reducing costs, the district will reduce fuel consumption as well as its carbon footprint.

Seattle Public Schools faces a $25 million funding gap for the 2009-2010 school year. Central office staff reductions, school closure, a hiring freeze, changes to the school funding model and strategies to maximize grant revenue will all contribute to closing that gap. Increasing the operational effectiveness of school bus routes was identified as an important strategy for closing the gap, and will save $2.2 million per year – the equivalent of 25 certificated classroom teachers.

The motion was introduced and approved by School Board members on March 18 to ensure that families have an opportunity to consider the impacts of the decision on their schedules, and to have the opportunity to apply for a different school, if needed, before the end of the Open Enrollment period on March 31. The motion was adjusted from the original proposal of 8:00 a.m. and 9:15 a.m. arrival times to reflect feedback from staff and families, who expressed concerns about students needing to wait for buses in the dark.

Other changes to transportation service standards include establishing Neighborhood Attendance Area bus stops for schools with large geographic draws. Using “safe walk zones” determined by the City of Seattle, neighborhood attendance area bus stops will be established at key centralized locations from which students will be picked up and dropped off daily. These locations can be YMCAs, neighborhood schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc. For students not residing within a “safe walk zone,” bus stops will be created to provide transportation for those students.

EARLY THURSDAY NOTE: The district also has distributed some info about the school assignment plan discussion that took place in a board work session before last night’s meeting. Here’s its section on the district website; more practical details are in this SPS Community Blog breakdown of the afternoon discussion.

27 Replies to "School Board meeting: ANOTHER change to the start-time plan"

  • Bonnie March 18, 2009 (6:49 pm)

    So are they voting on this tonight? I would NOT be happy. It’s too late of a start for my kids (9:30am) I thought 9am was a good time to start. (the time my son’s school started)

  • WSB March 18, 2009 (6:53 pm)

    It’s currently scheduled for a vote – there’s some controversy, so we’ll see what happens when the item comes up. Don Kennedy will be presenting the proposal shortly, after the public-comment period ends (probably at least another 10 minutes – since there are 20 speakers, 3 minutes each, so it’s after 7 pm when they’re done) … TR

  • j March 18, 2009 (7:14 pm)

    This seems a little backwards to me.. having young kids get home so late in the day when most go to bed earlier than older kids.. and having the older kids (particularly high school kids) get out so early, giving them probably a good 6 hours between getting out of school and when they go to bed (or maybe 7 or 8 hours).. lots of time for kids to get bored and into a lot of trouble! Good for kids who work in high school.. though I would guess that the percentage of the kids in middle and high school that work is pretty small. I will not be happy about the elementary shift if this happens.

  • SarahScoot March 18, 2009 (7:19 pm)

    I still don’t fully understand why school districts always have junior high and high school students start so much earlier than elementary school students. It has been shown in many studies that teenagers have different circadian rhythms than adults and young children: they generally don’t get tired until late at night, and as a result sleep later. Elementary-school aged kids, in contrast, are tired earlier and tend to wake up fairly early. Also, younger elementary school kids need help getting out of the house in the mornings; assuming the parent(s) have a conventional 8-5 workday, a 9:30 school start makes it difficult to maintain that schedule

    I’m not a parent, but I’m in my mid-20’s and clearly remember the pain of being in high school with a 7:25 start time… most of us didn’t go to sleep before midnight. Learning on approx. 6 hours of sleep… not so much.

  • SarahScoot March 18, 2009 (7:19 pm)

    j – looks like you and I had very similar thoughts at the same time :-)

  • j March 18, 2009 (7:21 pm)

    I hope someone is bringing up that point at the meeting.

  • PDieter March 18, 2009 (8:17 pm)

    The presentation now outlines the “start” “stop” times that have been presented are actually bus arrival/departure times and principals can adjust their actual start dismissal times to comply with teacher contracts etc.

    (the issue of how students actually learn and what the best times for that learning are not issues to be discussed….there is not data being presented for that subject (during superintendent’s update))

  • WSB March 18, 2009 (8:40 pm)

    Thanks – listened to Don Kennedy answer Harium MM’s question and still wasn’t completely clear but the bottom line seems to be, the elementaries are later and the K-8s are earlier than before, right?

  • Misty March 18, 2009 (8:45 pm)

    I know many teachers who have tossed around the very same issue-WHY do the teenagers start so much earlier when there IS data out there that supports the statement that teenagers need more sleep and should start at a later time?

  • PDieter March 18, 2009 (8:47 pm)

    WSB, I’m unprepared to be quizzed. ;)

    (I missed it too)

    Also note they just said research will be done on how time of day affects learning….next year.

    don’t know whether we have a fast cart or a slow horse here.

  • ssparent March 18, 2009 (9:00 pm)

    so did they vote on it or not?

  • WSB March 18, 2009 (9:01 pm)

    they haven’t voted yet. just getting to the “action item” section of the agenda now.

  • AD March 18, 2009 (9:27 pm)

    Misty, I agree. It’s too bad our district bus system cannot be larger so it would not affect the elementary students if there was a later start time for middle and high school.

  • ssparent March 18, 2009 (9:32 pm)

    catch 22…. greener n larger?

  • DLP March 18, 2009 (9:33 pm)

    So, did anyone at the meeting ever bring up the “high schoolers should start the school day later” issue? This is pretty common knowledge, so I am surprised (and exasperated) that our education officials didn’t think this research warranted mention or consideration.

  • WSB March 18, 2009 (9:35 pm)

    As PDieter notes above, they plan to do some research – next year. One school board member did mention that this will at least make the start times for middle/high school a LITTLE later, which he saw as a positive.

  • jenni March 18, 2009 (9:43 pm)

    aside from the safety of young children waiting for the school bus in the dark being a huge issue (and a 15 minute later start time hardly fixes this), i want to know what the district plans to do, contractually, about the teachers at K-8’s – specifically, elementary teachers…who, with these new hours, will now be working 1/2 beyond what their contract states. as a teacher, i am extremely frustrated that this has hardly been mentioned.

  • Dano Beal March 18, 2009 (10:12 pm)

    I am a teacher here in WS, and I don’t believe this will affect the teacher contract. We are required to be at school 1/2 an hour BEFORE the start of the school day, & 1/2 an hour AFTER the school dismissal. I doubt that will change. The thing to be concerned about is how this will impact parent work schedules… a 9:30 start time means that many families will have to find (and pay for) before school day care accomodations. Unless children receive breakfast at school, they are not to be dropped off too long before the start bell rings…. Funding just does not provide for supervision of kids before school.

  • Misty March 18, 2009 (10:16 pm)

    Jenni, this is the last year on the current Seattle Public School’s teacher contracts. (Incidentally, I think it is also the last year for the principals and custodians too.) I am confident that the SEA Union will take these new start times into consideration as it helps construct a workable contract for the upcoming years. I would hope you would volunteer your time to look over the proposed contract as it is being created this summer since you feel so strongly about this issue. It will take a lot of work from many people to agree on a workable contract. Good luck.

  • Near Alki March 18, 2009 (11:14 pm)

    My daughter is a student at the same school Dano Beal teaches at (however she is not one of his students). My daughters teacher is usually at her desk at 7am and does not leave school till 5pm (I’ve known her to stay much later than 5pm on many days as well). I’m sure a lot of teachers also spend many hours at home working too. My wife is a stay at home mom and takes our daughter to school, but I feel for the single parents with jobs and for dual working parents. 9:30 is just too late. It seems to me the District is doing this to save a very insignificant amount of $ in relation to their overall expenditures and causing another avoidable burden on families.

  • Dano March 19, 2009 (12:03 am)

    True, many teachers are at school far earier than the contract requires…. And stay later as well. However, those teachers living on a SINGLE income are often required to hold down at least one other part time job to make ends meet (I have two, which often brings me home after 1:00 AM)Under the new plan, teachers living some distance away (10-45 miles)….will have to adjust their commute times for traffic, etc, in order to get home at a reasonable hour The whole thing means that teachers will be at school less, so they can manage their own lives and families, just like everyone else… So this means fewer afterschool programs….All of this headache so we can use fewer buses…. I’m sure that the district is cutting down on the busses used to transport our very expensive high school sports teams to where they need to go….. yeah….. sure they are.

  • WSparent March 19, 2009 (8:47 am)

    “Salmon Bay K-8 and TOPS K-8: Including these two schools in this tier will help ensure that younger students will not need to wait for buses in the dark. ”

    So these younger students are looked after- what about ALL the other younger students. Yes they say it’s due to the long bus ride- my son is on the bus for an hour in the morning….
    i wish the district would get their act in order and be fair to ALL children.
    i get and understand the $$ factor- i honestly do.. but at the expense of our children? ok- yes don’t leave your litte one @ the bus stop in the dark.. i get that too. but even standing outside at daycare- at the approved spot- they are going to be alone- they are at greater risk in the morning… SPS…let’s look out for our children. I am never and advocate for cutting jobs, but cut the pork at the admin building- does everyone really need an assistant? do we really need extra people for reception? get interns, get students in high school to do their community service and work for the district….

    wake up- act like we’re educating YOUR children… i wonder how many SPS employees send their children to private school…..

  • GenHillOne March 19, 2009 (11:02 am)

    While I get the idea that there may be support for teens learning better with a later start, it doesn’t sound like there is enough data to make the argument right now. And hell, mine would sleep ’til noon if given the option, so an extra hour wouldn’t probably be a big deal. At least for high school, there’s an awful lot going on after school that would be impacted by a later release time too. Jobs, sports, music, (oh, and) more rigorous studies ;) When you add up all the options, it’s a lot of students. If class went until 3:45, sports practice for instance could go until 7:30! Then dinner and homework…any extra morning sleep would most likely be counteracted by a later night. I’m guessing other family members would be up later too (yawn), without the benefit of an extra hour in the morning, having to get to work, etc. All in all, I’d hate to see the older kids start much later than 8:15. Is the 9:30 elem. time all that different for schools in WS? I remember ours was 9:15.

  • Melissa March 19, 2009 (12:26 pm)

    This is just another instance of the SSD taking the short view. Yes, it saves the District some much-needed scratch, but it screws a HUGE number of parents of little kids. It’s do-able if you’ve got one parent at home with the kids. If you’re a two-working parents family or a single parent families who are trying to minimize the amount of time the kids are in before- or after-school care, this new system makes it so much tougher.

    When will Goodloe-Johnson and her cabal start to look out for the families? When will she start working WITH us instead of AT us?? Not that I was ever enchanted with her, but she’s blown any trust I ever had in her. As far as I see, she’s looking at the District as a business more than a place to help children become happy, productive members of society.

  • jsrekd March 19, 2009 (1:34 pm)

    just as a data point, Sanislo Elementary starts at 8:57 (yes, :57) so it will be 33 minute change if we start at 9:30. Right now if my 8 yo takes the yellow bus it’s a 60 minute ride, to a school that is 8 minutes away!! My dh & I both work outside the home, we are very lucky to have friends & family that help us in the morning so he doesn’t have to be on the bus for an hour, but this change could impact that.

  • homesweethome March 19, 2009 (8:06 pm)

    I hate to throw this out but…a school district is a business. Education is their core business certainly but it has costs and clearly those need to be managed. No one wants to see anything cut – no school closed, no program cut, no change. The deficit is actually very easy to fix – divide up the amount and everyone writes a check.

  • SPS parent March 20, 2009 (9:09 pm)

    If you want to read more about how MGJ and Kennedy “ran the business” in Charleston, see the 2007 posts on The Newsless Courier blog.

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