Should high school start later? Survey, recommendations expected in the year ahead

If you haven’t already seen local schools’ “bell times” for next school year, check this link for the district-wide list shared by West Seattle High School principal Ruth Medsker in the new edition of the school’s online newsletter, Westside Weekly. It’s part of a message from the principal to WSHS families, published in the newsletter put together each week during the school year by editor Beverly Corey. WSHS will start at 8 am next year, same as this year, and the principal goes on to address this bigger issue:

We have heard that some members of the larger Seattle Public Schools community would like the District to consider later high school start times and earlier elementary start times. This has major ramifications for high school students, including after-school jobs and athletics, as well as before- and after-school child care for elementary school families. It also means that elementary school students would be waiting for buses in the dark during much of the year.

The District is committed to thoroughly studying these ideas, but we ask for your patience as it will require time and public involvement. The District is working with families, staff on these long-term issues. Our plan is to develop a District-wide survey in the fall and to make recommendations to the School Board in time for the 2014-15 school year.

You can read the principal’s entire bell-time message (and the rest of the newest Westside Weekly) by going here.

14 Replies to "Should high school start later? Survey, recommendations expected in the year ahead"

  • sara May 31, 2013 (9:24 pm)

    I encourage the SPS to read – as if they are not already cognizant already – of the very extensive studies on sleep patterns of teenagers. Why-oh-why is everything backwards? I just don’t get why Seattle, home of the progressive and brave, is so behind when it comes to its public educational programs. There is SO MUCH enlightening new discoveries, what’s keeping us so backwards and mired?

  • Findlay May 31, 2013 (9:38 pm)

    Seattle Lutheran High School is moving its day in Fall 2013 from 8:00 am to likely 8:40 am. 2:40’ish will be end of school time.

  • trickycoolj May 31, 2013 (9:45 pm)

    North Thurston Public Schools switched to a later start from 7:00 to 7:30 to 8:05 by my senior year (2002-03). It was so much better for me as a night owl (still am). I think it was so they could combine busing junior/senior high school at the same time, the junior high started at 8:30 and each one was right next to a high school or close enough it worked out. We got out around 3, so it wasn’t bad at all for sports or after school activities.

    I should add we also had Late Start Thursday at 9:30AM for teacher training which cut our 6 period class day to 35min/class. Loved the extra sleeping time as a teenager, in hindsight as a tax paying adult the kids should have been in class learning. We didn’t learn squat on late start days and the students knew the teachers couldn’t realistically do much with a 35 min class period. So it was slack-off day almost weekly.

  • Luke May 31, 2013 (9:46 pm)

    In Tacoma, high school students start bright and early at 7:35 am and is released at 2:05 which makes sense for students with after school jobs.

  • Rick June 1, 2013 (5:27 am)

    Yes, we should cater to our teenagers, as if we already don’t.

  • D June 1, 2013 (7:19 am)

    After school jobs and activities should not take priority over a healthy and productive school day.

  • parent volunteer June 1, 2013 (7:51 am)

    Anytime before noon is probably too early for most teenagers. Would one hour later really make a big difference or would 8:30 just become the new 7:30?

  • Science June 1, 2013 (9:44 am)

    Here is information about a study conducted on this exact subject:

  • Serve our children June 1, 2013 (10:31 am)

    I agree with D. Brain research has proven this for many years. Yes even one hour would help. Sleep transforms learned material during the day to active knowledge. Not to mention keeping your nervous system healthy. Well being, health, and helping kids to reach their potential all takes precedence over after school activities, even jobs, and childcare (many full time working parents would need to find childcare regardless of start time since the school day is 6 hours.)

  • Lee June 1, 2013 (10:39 am)

    My elementary school daughter waits for the bus in the dark during the winter months as it is. The other parents and I take turns waiting with the kids. This isn’t really a good argument. You can’t change the physiology of a developing brain. All studies suggest teens do better with later start times.

  • JD June 1, 2013 (10:50 am)

    The earlier the better, get em ready for real world career jobs. 6-7AM sounds good to me.

  • m June 1, 2013 (12:21 pm)

    @ JD – Looking around me, I see a lot of people working “real world career jobs” at various hours throughout the day, evening and through the night. I don’t think there’s any 1 standard. And the physiology of an adolescent’s brain does not remain the same throughout their adulthood. It shifts again in a way that would be more adaptable to a conventional 9-5 job, if necessary.

  • West Seattle Since 1979 June 1, 2013 (3:16 pm)

    Teaching them to be on time for school or work is the thing, @jd, whether they have to get there at 7, 8, 9 or whenever. As m said, real-world jobs can start at any time of the day (or night). If teenagers learn better if school starts later, that’s what should be focused on. Studies have been done on this, as Science linked to above. Just make sure parents and teachers stress to kids that they must be at school on time and that they’ll have to be there on time to their jobs or they’ll get fired–that’ll take care of the real-world argument.

    And no, Rick, it’s not about “catering to teenagers”, it’s about optimal learning conditions.

  • D June 5, 2013 (11:46 am)

    “Teenagers need around eight to ten hours of sleep but get much less during their workweek. A recent study found that when the starting time of high school is delayed by an hour, the percentage of students who get at least eight hours of sleep per night jumps from 35.7 percent to 50 percent. Adolescent students’ attendance rate, their performance, their motivation, even their eating habits all improve significantly if school times are delayed.”
    -Till Roenneberg, sleep researcher.

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