Seattle Public Schools start times back in play – board meets tonight

Thanks to those who have flagged us to this today via e-mail and phone, and it’s also under discussion at Seattle Schools Community Forum, with the exhortation, “Now is the time to pay attention”: Tonight’s Seattle School Board meeting includes the first look at a “Revision to Transportation Standards.” That means changing the scheduling of school buses, which in turn means changing the scheduling for schools’ start and end times.

You might recall, this all came up just last year – when another round of transportation changes and ensuing bell-time changes meant that some schools were starting as late as the 9:30 am vicinity; Sanislo Elementary, in particular, tried to fight it (here’s one of our stories from May 2011).

Last year’s changes were supposed to save money. However, it didn’t work out that way, according to district documents in tonight’s meeting packet – so now they’re looking at a new three-tier system, with bus arrivals at schools as early as 7:10 am, 15 minutes earlier than the earliest ones now, and longer bus rides. Here’s a screen grab:

No specific “which school would be in which tier” list already that we can find (and we’re asking the district just to be sure). The report on tonight’s agenda says this could save $1 million next year. For the current year, “transportation expenditures” may be almost $3 million over budget, the School Board has been told. Tonight’s board meeting (agenda here) is at 6 pm at district headquarters in SODO.

41 Replies to "Seattle Public Schools start times back in play - board meets tonight"

  • rob May 2, 2012 (3:07 pm)

    “Last year’s changes were supposed to save money. However, it didn’t work out that way, according to district documents in tonight’s meeting packet “…and yet they are about to ask us for more money…again. Hard to have faith in how they are running the district if they can’t even figure out buses.

  • Cheryl May 2, 2012 (3:09 pm)

    Um, Roxhill’s start time got changed to 9:30am this year. Maybe we’ll get “lucky” and they’ll change it back – to something MUCH earlier since that’s the most ridiculous start time for an elementary school I’ve ever heard of. TEENAGERS should start at 9:30am. They need the sleep. 5 year olds, they’re up at the crack of dawn, can’t be left at home to fend for themselves while I go off to work, and also should be in school when they’re “fresh” brained. Oy. What a clusterf00k.

    • WSB May 2, 2012 (3:18 pm)

      C – I know Sanislo wasn’t the only one but they put up a big ol’ fight, contacted us, and we covered it. Had to include that for context. I believe some other schools start pretty late too. In one story, I had a list, but no time to dig that up now – TR

  • Westseattleperson May 2, 2012 (3:11 pm)

    I know of another district that has it switched around. Elementary starts early and high school starts later. This makes sense to me. 9:30 is absurdly late for any school to start though.

  • curious May 2, 2012 (3:17 pm)

    Isn’t tonights meeting on TV (the educational channel) or whatever Seattles CPAN version is?
    “when I went to school” K-12 was there from 8 to 4 or 4:30! What happened?!? Kids need MORE school, not less.

    • WSB May 2, 2012 (3:24 pm)

      I keep forgetting the channel, curious, but yes, it’s usually broadcast live. And while it’s not streamed online, the video is usually turned around by morning …

  • Nick May 2, 2012 (3:35 pm)

    I totally agree with cheryl it costs me alot more money because my son at HP elementary has to go to before and after school care I agree elementary should go first to save us parents some money. This change would save me 200.00 per month

  • lk May 2, 2012 (3:41 pm)

    This is soooo frustrating. The 9:30 bell time has really impacted our school and families. Sundquist came and heard our concerns, and basically told us the change was necessary, because it would save money. I’m at a loss to see how what appears to be more of the same is going to save significant $$. If they are projecting a budget overrun of $2million, and last year’s plan was supposed to save the district at least one million, where are the numbers to show exactly where things went contrary to plan, and how the new system will be any better? For many Sanislo parents, Sundquist’s support of this transportation plan and the crazy later start times was the straw that broke the camel’s back: it cost him the vote of pretty much every Sanislo parent to whom I’ve spoken on the issue. I hope Marty McLaren shows more insight.

  • kayo May 2, 2012 (3:43 pm)

    I feel your pain, Cheryl, as Lafayette also starts at 9:30. It is ridiculous. It is equally ridiculous that they want to keep this system even though it is not saving money. When kids are still being bussed all over West Seattle because of poorly drawn boundaries, grandfathering, and option schools, it will be nearly impossible to contain bussing costs, whether you have a fancy 3 tiered system or not. It certainly causes hardship for working patents to have schools start so late and having kids start at 7am is not in any way optimal for high school and middle school kids. There has to be a better way.

  • L May 2, 2012 (3:43 pm)

    The third tier arrival time of 9:20 would mean that school should start at 9:35. The schools need to allow time for the children from the bus to eat breakfast that is offered at school. Looks like the start times are going later instead of earlier.

  • Cheryl May 2, 2012 (3:51 pm)

    TR – Didn’t mean to imply you hadn’t reported other schools w/ late starts. Just wanted to complain about MY kids school starting so late. :-)
    Late start elementary and early start high school is ridiculous for so many reasons. But just add that to the ever-growing list of things our public schools seem to do backasswards. Right?

  • Lura Ercolano May 2, 2012 (3:55 pm)

    7:10 ??? They can’t be serious.

  • Mary May 2, 2012 (3:59 pm)

    Many studies have shown that the biological clocks of teenagers are shifted back, meaning they go to bed later and sleep in later (obviously those of us with teenagers didn’t need a study to prove this!). High schools should start later and elementary should start earlier across the board.

  • lissajane May 2, 2012 (4:03 pm)

    I have a first grader and 8:20 am is too early for our family. some families have to work later and so in order to see their kids and do stories the child has to stay up later. I would like school to start at 9:30! i know many disagree but that would be ideal for my family.

  • lissajane May 2, 2012 (4:04 pm)

    compelling research stating why school start times should be later for high school. I think it applies to all kids.

  • lissajane May 2, 2012 (4:05 pm)

    this link is to research about the benefits of later start times for school

  • tk May 2, 2012 (4:08 pm)

    Operations Dept just confirmed that all middle & high schools have always been in “Tier I” which, as listed in red above means that all our middle school & high school students would be starting in the early hours @ 7:30 am and back on the streets at 2:00pm.
    Contact the school board members- they are meeting tonight about this & need to hear from families how this impacts us.

    • WSB May 2, 2012 (4:32 pm)

      The SPS communications team says “a few different options” will be presented during the meeting, but there is no specific list of School X is in Tier X right now – TR

  • WSratsinacage May 2, 2012 (4:16 pm)

    Times up and down like a roller coaster! This will be the 3rd change in as many years.. WTH?

  • Rumbles May 2, 2012 (4:28 pm)

    Thank goodness these people aren’t running a nuclear power facility! I agree with the comments before, where are the savings from this year? It seems that hardly anyone qualifies for the bus anyway, have you ever seen the pickup and drop off at one of the middle schools? How “green” is it for all these vehicles to be driving back and forth (I realize some parents have to drive).

    It might be different if we all thought this would actually save money, but I have my doubts. I would also agree with the other commenter about starting the older kids later, that makes good sense versus the earlier start times.

  • Bonnie May 2, 2012 (4:52 pm)

    So, the late start school buses don’t leave the school until 3:55pm? What? That is ridiculous!

    Since I have had kids in SPS things have just gotten worse and worse. For the first few years they didn’t screw around with stuff. But the last 3 years have been ridiculous. Really? 9:35am start times? Getting to the school at 7:10am? Next year I will have one kid at Denny (start time right now is 7:40am) and I will have an elementary student. If the start time is 9:35am my younger child will have TWO HOURS sitting around in the morning.

  • Donna Lawson May 2, 2012 (5:25 pm)

    We’re NOT morning people and if my kindergartner (next year, 1st grader) has to get to school at 7:10am, I don’t know what we’re going to do. I can barely get her to wake up at 7am, there’s NO way I could do this.

  • boy May 2, 2012 (6:18 pm)

    When are are they going to give up on the head start program? Even the feds own people have made there own studies and found that it dose not work. The worse part is the feds are throughing another billion at it. They found that a year after being in the head start program they could not tell the difference between who did it and who did not. Just more gov. waste

  • Bonnie May 2, 2012 (6:44 pm)

    boy, if you had gone to head start maybe you wouldn’t have made so many errors in your post.

  • Grace May 2, 2012 (8:29 pm)

    We are not morning people either, so the 9:30 start time at Lafayette works out great for us on my “non-work” days…,.so if I could afford to be a stay home mom, great! On the days I WORK…a 9:30 start time for school is ridiculous…so if traffic is not a problem (rare these days) I’m looking at not starting work until 10-ish…add 8 hours, plus a commute home and you are looking at a family dinner at 7-7:30 pm and that’s IF I have someone to cook for me! C’mon SPS, there is ALOT of “working” parents out here!

  • Eric B May 2, 2012 (8:50 pm)

    Originally, the reason for the late start for elementary and the later starts for Middle and High schools was because the District didn’t want small children out when it was dark (Civil twilight was the limit by the standards passed in 2010.) As this was considered a safety issue it trumped all others. This proposal throws that out the window, so they might as well do the educationally correct thing and move elementaries to an early time and the older kids to a late time.

  • mamaof2 May 2, 2012 (9:10 pm)

    School board meetings are televised on channel 26.

  • mvf May 2, 2012 (9:19 pm)

    Our school is our reference school and my daughter is eligible for bussing. One of the main reasons we use the bus is because I can put her on the bus at 9am and get to work a bit earlier. However, there are only six kids on the bus to school, and maybe 10 on the way home. The bus is 75% empty 100% of the time- and the bus driver is ALWAYS late because she is on her “third tier”. My daughter has been officially tardy (excused of course) at least eight times this year. It seems that consolidating bus routes makes more sense than running more busses. There’s a a different bus going to her school that picks up just a few blocks from our house. Frustrating…

  • taprat May 2, 2012 (9:42 pm)

    I believe the reason that elementary school starts late and high school starts early is to accommodate high school sports after school. And you can’t have them both start early because you need the buses to be available for both time slots. I’m not judging – just pointing out the reason for the seemingly backwards arrangement.

  • goodgraces May 2, 2012 (11:31 pm)

    It is ridiculous to have the elementary school kids who go to K-8 schools ARRIVE at 7:10 a.m.! Talk about creating one problem when you try to “solve” another one a dumb way — the tardy stats are going to go through the roof! I for one cannot imagine getting my 5 year old ready at 6 a.m. to catch the bus at 6:30 a.m. for her 7:10 arrival at our K-8. ABSURD!

  • Bonnie May 3, 2012 (7:15 am)

    I don’t think Pathfinder would arrive at 7:10am. I think that is more for middle school. I believe Denny starts at 7:40am right now and Pathfinder 8:20 (I think!!). Anyway, I don’t think Pathfinder is Tier 1.

  • Momof3 May 3, 2012 (7:17 am)

    When the 2-tier bussing system winds up going massively over budget, add a third tier? Crazy start times aside, it just doesn’t make sense.

  • Nick May 3, 2012 (8:47 am)

    Bottom line is working middle class families who have kids in elementary school who work normal hours get the short end of the stick now I will continue to pay 500.00 dollars per month for before and after school care. Changing elementary times could help working and single parent families that don’t qualify for subsidies.

  • c May 3, 2012 (9:48 am)

    Wow now I don’t know where my kids will go to school or what time they might start. Wish me luck in the job interviewing!

  • Chuck May 3, 2012 (11:30 am)

    This article seems timely:

    • WSB May 3, 2012 (11:45 am)

      I will have a followup on this a bit later. Waiting to see if any further documents are forthcoming from the district; there’s some followup of course already on and I’ve been catching up with the meeting video online since I was not able to go to the board meeting last night. No final action since it was scheduled as “introduction” but lots of discussion – TR

  • curious May 3, 2012 (4:24 pm)

    where’s the video online?

    • WSB May 3, 2012 (4:26 pm)

      Sorry, I have been delayed in putting together the followup. Go to the Seattle Channel site and search Seattle Public Schools video – the meeting is in two parts – the discussions starts 95 minutes into the second clip.

  • Seattleseabug May 3, 2012 (8:27 pm)

    Just plain stupid, not much else to say.

  • westelllo May 3, 2012 (10:52 pm)

    Hi from the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog (formerly Save Seattle Schools).

    We were promised savings from moving to a neighborhood plan. As well, we were promised a taskforce review of transportation. This was 2-3 years ago. But it didn’t happen. Some schools have experienced schedule changes in the last 3 out of 4 years. It’s a lot for parents and student to absorb.

    What was stated at the Board meeting last night is that 1)there will be a taskforce review starting this fall for 2013-2014 and 2) these new times will only be for 1-2 years. (But sadly, the district doesn’t always keep their promises.)

    Staff admitted to not having any public engagement on this new plan and the Board really said nothing. It was disappointing.

    It always seems the district gets in a jam, tells the Board, “We’re in a jam and can only do this and we have to to it fast.” It seems to work.

    Write to the Board ( and the superintendent ( and tell them what you think.

    What is troubling is that the district will consider spending nearly $3M of the funds that came from sales of school buildings to buy a building we already own (in Lake City, it’s a long and troubling story) to help out the leasee company.

    Why is it okay then to turn the schedules for nearly 40k+ students and famlies upside down for $1-2M?

  • WSB May 4, 2012 (11:22 am)

    Finally have a followup up – and it’s better anyway because the district is now officially asking for your opinion.
    Our followup includes a link to the district’s writeup, which has not been sent out as a news release but is on the SPS home page:

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