West Seattle schools: Lafayette Elementary gets its wish – earlier bell times next year

9:15 PM: Lafayette Elementary in Admiral is getting its wish – an earlier schedule next year. Thanks to the parents who pointed us to today’s announcement, which is posted on the school website as well as having been sent home on paper. When the district announced new “bell times” last fall (WSB coverage here), mostly to try to get older students onto later schedules, Lafayette was the only elementary school in West Seattle that was left in late-start “Tier 3” – and its 9:30 start time was even scheduled to move five minutes later. But today, Lafayette leadership announced that the request to move to Tier 1 had been granted, one of only two of the 11 districtwide requests that the district was able to honor, according to this letter from assistant superintendent Pegi McEvoy. Next school year’s start time and end time at Lafayette will be 7:55 am and 2:05 pm. (Lafayette file photo from SPS website)

ADDED 4:16 PM THURSDAY: Thanks to the commenters who provided additional information. Here’s the official district reply to our request for the list of the 11 schools that asked to be moved up and which school besides Lafayette had the requested granted:

The district was able to move Bailey Gatzert and Lafayette to Tier 1 while keeping transportation “budget neutral”:

1. Bailey Gatzert
2. Orca K-8
3. Thurgood Marshall
4. K-8 STEM at Boren
5. Lafayette
6. Laurelhurst
7. Adams
8. John Hay
9. View Ridge
10. Catherine Blaine K-8
11. Cascadia@ Lincoln

22 Replies to "West Seattle schools: Lafayette Elementary gets its wish - earlier bell times next year"

  • Admiral Mom June 1, 2016 (10:06 pm)

    What other ten schools requested a change? And which school got their wish granted besides Lafayette?

    • Astacia June 2, 2016 (1:44 pm)

      I was at the school board meeting yesterday. Bailey-Gatzert and Lafayette are the only two that have been moved out of Tier 3 so far. The district wants to do away with  the 3-tiered system but we don’t have adequate funding at this time. If our legislature would fund McCleary, this would be an easy shift.

  • Ms. A June 1, 2016 (10:07 pm)

    Lafayette was NOT the only elementary school left in West Seattle in Tier 3.  STEM was also left in Tier 3.  The school has just begun the middle-school roll up, and the vast majority of the students are elementary aged.  Yet, our bell start time next year is projected for 9:40am.

     By comparison, the bell start time for the other K-8 (Pathfinder) is 8:45am.  And, the bell start times for the 2 middle schools are 7:55am (Denny) and 8:45am (Madison).

     In October 2015, the District sent all parents an e-mail which provided: “In late September, the District held five community meetings to review and comment on a draft recommendation.  The feedback received indicated that moving Title 1 schools to the latest arrival time (Tier 3) would worsen the opportunity gap for students who face some of the greatest challenges. “

     STEM is not Title 1, but has many low-income kids due to our geographical reference area.  Yet, these kids are being disproportionately affected by the late bell time.   Ours is now the very worst in all of West Seattle.

     What the hey????? 

    • WSB June 1, 2016 (10:09 pm)

      Ms. A, I’m sorry, I guess I should have said “elementary-only,” which is what I meant (I did check Louisa Boren STEM’s website to see if there was anything about a tier change), and I will update that.

      Admiral Mom – I don’t know. The letter doesn’t mention it, and I cannot find any evidence of a district-wide announcement on the SPS website, so since I don’t have time to check the websites of all schools districtwide, I’m going to ask their media-relations folks tomorrow. I also looked at the agenda for tonight’s board meeting and didn’t see any item listed there about this but am going to ping local director Leslie Harris in case she knows – TR

    • Bonnie June 2, 2016 (6:59 am)

      Ms. A, I’m so sorry about your start time not changing.  The late start time is just crazy.  It doesn’t work for working parents.  Late start time but even later release time due to the middle school being part of it.  It’s just crazy.  Years ago when my daughter was starting 3rd we had thought about switching to STEM but the start time deterred us.  Obviously it isn’t deterring many (because the waitlists are very long!) but I just couldn’t do that late start time.  I’m glad Lafayette was able to convince a change but no school should have such a late start time.

  • NotOnHolden June 2, 2016 (5:08 am)

    I still can’t wrap my mind around the STEM start times.  My son and I decided he’s only staying for one more year.

  • Stemparent June 2, 2016 (8:09 am)

    Why is the stem administration not pursuing this? I’m sure they know this is hard on working families 

    • WSB June 2, 2016 (8:19 am)

      So STEM was not on the list of schools requesting a move if possible? I have a request out to SPS for the list (and the name of the other school that got one) so I don’t have that information.

  • Scott June 2, 2016 (8:30 am)

    A 7:40 start time is just ridiculous for elementary school kids.  SPS is a joke.

  • 1000amys June 2, 2016 (8:33 am)

    I’m kind of amused that the STEM folks are freaking out about the late start time. Meanwhile at Sanislo, which actually is a high-poverty school, the PTA is scrambling to fund after-school programs for next year because the new, earlier start times mean middle and high school kids can’t pick up younger siblings from school (which is hard on working parents). 

    I know that Lowell got their start time changed back to Tier 3 from the proposed Tier 1, although that news came a few weeks ago. The concern at Lowell (also a high poverty school with a high proportion of homeless students) was the many medically fragile students whose morning routines can take several hours. It would be a hardship for many of them (and their parents) to have to get up at 4:00 am to be ready for an 8:00 start.

    Change is hard. Please don’t assume that one tier is universally harder for families than another. Every family has different challenges. Every start time and end time presents obstacles to some families.

  • Gina June 2, 2016 (8:57 am)

    As a school neighbor, I look forward to 6 am intercom announcements reminding teachers to bring something to write with at the meeting,

  • StringCheese June 2, 2016 (9:03 am)

    STEM did, indeed, put in for a time change. As of March 28th, there were 9 schools on this list as presented in the bell times update for the 3/30 Board work session. The schools are listed, very confusingly I might add, as “Voluntary Opt-In” schools which, actually meant they were seeking changes to their set times. The schools on the list were:

    • ADAMS
    • JOHN HAY
    • K-8 STEM @ BOREN
    • ORCA

    You can see a post about this on the Seattle Schools Community Forum: http://saveseattleschools.blogspot.com/2016/03/seattle-schools-this-week_27.html

    and a link to the presentation itself (if the link will work): Bell Times presentation packet

    Let’s hope that a change comes through for STEM as well!

    • WSB June 2, 2016 (9:06 am)

      Thanks, SC. I looked at that site – of course, as it’s the gold standard of SPS-related reporting – before publishing this last night, to see if they’d already published something wider on it, did not see anything (Mel Westbrook retweeted us after we published this last night and then posted something to the site, so I guess thanks to the parental tipsters we had first word of Lafayette), but didn’t pull a search so thanks for the additional details; my request to SPS hasn’t been answered yet but it’s only a few minutes past 9. – TR

  • 1000amys June 2, 2016 (11:18 am)

    That article about Sanislo bell times 5 years ago is interesting for sure. I definitely don’t remember anybody talking about how they were using all that money they saved….With a school spanning six grades, the vast majority of current parents have no idea this start time was protested five years ago. However, as a school community, Sanislo has NOT protested this current change to much earlier bell times. We are trying to figure out how to make the change work for families, many of whom cannot pay for after-school care. 

    I will just say again, change is hard  it’s hard for families to piece together how they are going to get all their kids where they need to go and keep them supervised when they are not in school. It’s frustrating and hard when that changes and has to be re-done. Change is hard.

  • Mama4 June 2, 2016 (1:51 pm)

    STEM asked our community for feedback and while you can’t make everyone happy (right owls, early birds, working parents, not working parents, special needs – there are as many opinions as kids) the majority asked for an early start time instead of the late.

    The issue for me is that the third tier means parents / guardians need both before and after school. Most can’t go late and leave early – at least in some cases parents “make it work” with an early time by going a little late and having after school care. Which is money. Our population will have special education classes, a middle school, a higher population of free & reduced lunch than Lafayette, but they got the early time because there would not be enough buses for all our special ed population (and therefore the change is cost neutral) We tick off all the other deciding factors (population of free & reduced lunch, more special ed classes, etc) but it would cost more money for our higher needs population that Lafayette. Not that I have anything against us ALL getting into tier one or 2 – but THAT IS NOT EQUITY. If cost trumps all other decisions (which I get  – see Washington’s Paramount Duty site!) than there is no space for better decisions to EVER get made. We are the ONLY school in West Seattle that will start and end so (*freaking!) late and I am furious that cost trumps all. 

    Obviously it’s hard to change things, it’s hard to make it work for any community. Change is hard – but it’s not the change it’s that the systems (or lack there of!) for making decisions and then getting feedback and communicating them are so VERY flawed. 

    Tracy – the other school that got notice yesterday was Bailey Gatzert. I don’t track schools not in West Seattle and can’t confirm this – but that was the rumor I heard. 

    Leslie Harris might have feedback about why Lafayette got it and STEM didn’t as well. I know Lafayette has wanted to go to an earlier time for years and has advocated for that. STEM did too earlier this year (for ALL West Seattle elementary / middle schools to have tier 1 or 2). Seems like time advocating for a change shouldn’t be a factor in decisions though. 

  • Gary June 2, 2016 (3:17 pm)

    Thank You for this article.  I wonder what most studies recommend for elementary school times and academic success.  Also I wonder how other countries schedule.  Especially the ones that do better.  Not to say they are right, but do the powers that be consider these things? 

  • dk June 2, 2016 (3:26 pm)

    I am so thankful for this change.  I am sorry other schools have later start times.  It is very inconvenient for working parents without family support/daycare options to get to work at a decent hour when school starts at 9:40. 

    I will now be able to invest the $5000/year (which is difficult as it is) into my two kids’ college funds.  

    Hooray, my faith in SPS has modestly increased.

  • Yikesthatsearly June 2, 2016 (4:20 pm)

     SPS is a joke- starting school this early is insane. Can’t the middle schoolers take public transportation? All other districts around us save hustle and $$ not offering transportation to middle and high schools. 7:55 start times are insane. All schools should start and end a reasonable times. 8:30-9? Can West Seattle just become our own district?!

  • Ms. A June 2, 2016 (7:36 pm)


    It’s interesting that you mention Sanislo’s before- and after-care program.  Our STEM kids go there.  In fact, many STEM kids attend before- and after-care programs at other schools, because our school doesn’t have one. 

    However, having such a late start time for STEM means that these families won’t be able to attend these programs next year because the disparate start and end times.   That means that Sanislo (and other programs) loses the money from these families at the same time we are scrambling (as a 2-parent working family) to find before- and after-care.

    Funding for before- and after-care programs comes from many, many families.  Having us (and other families) gone next year just owes to the financial difficulties at Sanislo.


  • 1000amys June 2, 2016 (8:10 pm)

    Thanks for pointing that out about the kids from other schools using before and after school care. I hadn’t thought about that. It’s all really complicated! That program was saying at a meeting a few months ago that they probably wouldn’t even be able to open before school because it would be too short of a shift to staff. Not sure if they have found a work-around, but the irony was an earlier start time meaning families would not be able to drop kids off as early (not sure if it was 7:00 or what). 

    I don’t mean to pick on the STEM community. I just truly mean it is amusing to watch school communities have such a variety of reactions, including Lowell (where I have a son in preschool) fighting to stay in Tier 3 because of medically fragile students.

    Of course if we could fully fund the schools, this issue would be moot. It seems ridiculous (but typical) of the district to pit schools against each other.

    Gary, I suspect we would find that in the countries where schools are doing well (Finland?) there is a better work-life balance meaning fewer childcare issues due to more flexible schedules etc. I remember learning that every family at the preschool where I volunteered in Denmark was expected to take a five-week summer vacation because the parents would have that much leave from work, and they just needed to stagger them so staff could also have their vacation weeks. 

  • NativetoSeattle June 2, 2016 (9:24 pm)

    I’m also wondering about the impact of the smaller class sizes and before-after care programs that are currently housed in schools, but are at risk of losing their space. I know Blazing Trails at Pathfinder is waiting to find out what is going to happen with the space they are currently using. This is probably a larger, district-wide issue, but could cause huge problems for families who rely on those programs. 

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