FOLLOWUP: What’s next for Seattle Public Schools schedule-change proposal

As noted in our Wednesday event list, the proposal to change Seattle Public Schools to a three-tier schedule was pulled from the School Board‘s meeting agenda, after originally being scheduled for introduction last night, followed by a final vote two weeks later. The district says it has to make the schedule changes because of a shortage of school-bus drivers, but many concerns have been raised about the proposal resulting in many schools starting as early as 7:30 am and some starting as late as 9:30 am, with a long list of potential ripple effects, including a child-care crisis. (See the West Seattle/South Park list of proposed changes in our original report on the controversial plan.)

SPS Superintendent Dr. Brent Jones said in a statement that the district is “slowing down the decision-making process so we can continue to identify ways to alleviate the concerns that have been raised.” Will it be back on the agenda for the board meeting in two weeks? No decision yet. Dr. Jones’s statement also included: “Staff will continue to work with schools, families, and partners over the next several weeks as we refine this plan.”

Even without an official agenda item, the proposal was the subject of much discussion at last night’s meeting (video above) – both during the public-comment period and during the board-comment period. Some parents who spoke urged the district to keep the current schedules for next school year and spend that time working on the underlying issues. Board members spoke of the uproar with which they had been dealing for the past week-plus, saying that district staff surfacing this so late in the school year had “created an emergency where there shouldn’t need to be one.” West Seattle’s school-board rep Leslie Harris noted again, as she had at the recent community meeting, that the budget item foreshadowing this dated back months, so the proposal shouldn’t have been so last-minute. And board president Brandon Hersey also decried the resulting “fear and confusion,” when, he said, the board should instead be able to be “stewards of peace and clarity.”

Just one night earlier, the district held an informational meeting about the proposal; you can see the recording here. They’re continuing to accept feedback here. And if you want to talk about this – or any other SPS issue – with Harris, she announced that since library meeting rooms have just reopened, she will have an in-person community conversation meeting at 3 pm Saturday, May 21st, at West Seattle (Admiral) Library (2306 42nd SW).

12 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: What's next for Seattle Public Schools schedule-change proposal"

  • Alki Mom May 5, 2022 (6:19 pm)

    Thank you Leslie Harris for hosting an in person meeting! I appreciate that so much and it’s very refreshing to see. This proposal is just awful for all the reasons known.  The district needs more time to creatively address the areas that need to increase their bus routes. Those kids need access to transportation to get to school but the issue is not a universal district issue. 

  • Old Mom May 5, 2022 (6:28 pm)

    I thought bussing was already eliminated for middle and high school students, and Orca cards provided. Why the shortage now? Are there really not enough drivers for elementary kids? If sports are creating the conflict, why not cut down offerings or competition schedules? That sounds less disruptive to families struggling to work and have childcare.

    • NotOnHolden May 5, 2022 (7:06 pm)

      It would not be right to cut down on sports offerings due to lack of school provided transportation; these activities can be a pathway to scholarships and that would create an equity issue as in “only the kids with money and parents that can shuttle them to activities” can participate which is already a continuing problem.DO   NOT make high schoolers get up any earlier.What about all the PTTO Metro Drivers?  Is there a 587 approved way for them to cover shifts for bussing and get paid?  The county wastes so much money on ridiculous crap, I think they can work with Seattle  and figure this one out in 3 years or so…

      • k May 6, 2022 (8:23 am)

        Metro has a driver shortage as well.  They’re not going to be available to help drive for schools.  There are state laws dictating maximum hours in a day or week that a commercial driver can work, so picking up extra shifts is unlikely to be a solution.

      • Shufflerunner May 6, 2022 (9:11 am)

        Per the NCAA only 2% of Highschool students are awarded some type of sports scholarship. Per the Washington State constitution “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste, or sex.”. Pushing the bell times for elementary students to 9:30 without provisioning for before school care so parents can get to work will absolutely impact the ability for students (primarily low income) to access education. Sports should be the first thing cut from the bus schedule. This whole thing seems like the school board trying to be a little too creative in their solution to avoid the obvious answer of spending more money. People don’t want to do a stressful job with odd hours for minimum wage.     

        • k May 6, 2022 (10:50 am)

          Money isn’t the issue.  The issue is a nationwide shortage of commercial drivers.  Solutions need to either make more qualified drivers appear or require fewer of them in the first place.  Metro and other agencies that pay well are also facing driver shortages.

  • Buddy May 5, 2022 (7:34 pm)

    It seems like that the school district should figure stuff out way in advance then waiting until a few months before school is out.  With so many people wanting high paying jobs with benefits that used to pay just minimum wage is making it harder to find workers.  All bus drivers should also have an adult who is hired by the district to monitor children on the bus.

    • Old Mom May 6, 2022 (5:28 am)

      I suppose not that many people would want to spend the day locked in a tin can with 50 shouting, mask-free, snoty kids, for minimum wage, and no health benefits, during an endless pandemic. How many drivers died, or left with long Covid, or retired early to avoid getting sick, or just get sick over and over and have to call out frequently? Surely, wages are decent, healthcare is great, and sick leave is generous enough for the reality of working closely with kids?? Labor costs rise when your workforce shrinks. Supply and demand. This may be what living with the virus looks like.

      • alki_2008 May 8, 2022 (1:13 am)

        You think school bus drivers are only getting paid minimum wage?   They are not.  Last I saw, the starting rate was $26 for brand new drivers. Pay is not the problem as much as finding people that are willing and able to do the work.  Would you want to drive kids around, especially when you can’t even discipline them by yelling without risking being accused or abuse or discrimination or something else that is not what you meant?  It’s not work that many people want to do. You can’t force people to do the work.

        • WSRes May 8, 2022 (9:39 am)

          Now, do the math on earning $26 an hour for a split-shift job (start 530 or 6am; end 6pm or later) that doesn’t even give you 8 hours per day of paid work.

  • Boop May 6, 2022 (1:04 am)

    So sorry for the families having to deal with this.  Personally, glad our kids have moved on.  

  • Sasquatch May 6, 2022 (10:21 am)

    I’m sorry to all of the families who have to trust their children to First Student – the bus company that SPS contracts with. I can’t believe we are still working with them. Maybe nobody else wants to get into the business. “in 2019 the state found 150 safety violations – which indicates there is probably far worse that still hasn’t been discovered. 

    • 44 were for using drivers without drug testing them first.
    • 13 violations were for making fraudulent or intentionally false statements.
    • 99 violations were for failing to require inspection reports”

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