Saturday, February 28, 2009

FYI and Updates on the Bell Time Issue

I posted this in a thread elsewhere but it may bear a more public notice. The agenda for the next Board meeting this Wednesday the 4th has been posted. Apparently it did have an item about bell times but it was removed ( and will reappear at another date this month).

Normally, those who sign up to speak to either newly introduced items or action items get first preference on the list. But since there is currently only 1 item on the action list and 1 on the introductory list, well, you will definitely be able to speak on any subject and likely make the list of speakers. (They start taking e-mails/phone calls at 8 a.m.)

I'm wondering, given the large number of posts about the APP elementary split (uniforms, bell times, name changes) if many APP parents will fill the list to let the Board know how they feel.

With the bell times item being removed from the list unless it reappears between Monday morning and Wednesday night's meeting, then it will not be voted on until after the enrollment period ends. This seems an incredibly bad idea on the Board's part and I have to wonder what would compel them to get into this position. Could it be that the Board is thinking of waiting until the Assignment plan comes out? Here is a link to a Transportation presentation to the Board in Feb. It is shockingly underwritten with little or no analysis.

Also, I was mistaken in believing the Board was going to vote on bell times. It is not within their domain. From Harium's blog:

"The change in start time does not require board approval because it is an operational items which is under the control of the superintendent very similar to program placement.

But , having said that, the board does have input to ask for clarifications and changes to the proposal. I would have hoped that the staff had come to the operations or C&I committee before going to the whole board where we could have asked more probing questions. What is happening now is that the board is asking the staff questions with the desire for them to present a more detailed presentation including the methods use, educational impact, and research used to come to the conclusions they did. I have some major reservations about this plan in light of the research done on hs and start time. The other concern I have is having some of the K-8 start at 8 AM and some of the elementary schools starting at 8 AM."

He also said:

"Good question on the if the start time will be decided before open enrollment ends. I don't believe that it will but I will ask that of the staff today and post the answer here."

(He didn't post it yet.)

Okay, I get that this is not something the Board can vote on. This is just me but if I were on the Board, I would tell the Superintendent, "It is unacceptable to not have concrete analysis on this change in bell times. It is unacceptable to have no public input on these changes. And it is unacceptable if a decision is not going to be made in time for parents who are making enrollment choices for their students. You certainly can do this, Madame Superintendent, but keep in mind; our support is important to you in many other areas and we are publicly elected officials who are responsible to voters."

This may be a place where the Board draws a line in the sand...or not.

And look what's coming up on the Board's To-Do list on March 11th (in Executive Session) - the Superintendent evaluation. Time for another raise?

42 comments:

seattle parent said...

This is somewhat a repeat of what I originally posted under your Bell Time & Transportation section:

The agenda was posted for next Wed's school board meeting around 12:30 Friday, and it included an Introduction Item, "Transportation." I read the links quicky through (there were about six individual parts of the transportation section), and one of the items that was to be discussed and then voted on (at the following meeting, 2 weeks later) by the Board was Start & End Times for all the schools at the 3 levels (elem, MS & HS). Specific schools were NOT named. For the K-8 it just said "some" would be at the earlier 8:00 start time.

There were alot of crossed out sections in red, as if a discussion had already happened. For example, for the high school start & end time 8:00-2:30, it specified that this would apply only to schools with yellow bus service. Then, following that was a whole paragraph crossed out in red, specifying that high schools without yellow busses could apply for some sort of a waiver, with specifics on what applied... but obviously, that would not be necessary according to the first section specifying it only applied to HS's with yellow busses, thus it was crossed out in red.

But, the whole school start/end times were there. If I recall, for elementary schools (most of them) they were to start at 9:15 and would end later than previously announced, at 3:30 (my guess was to give 1 hr. turn around time from the High school/middle schools ending at 2:30).

Later that afternoon, I went back to read more, and it was gone! I called the school board office & was told that it was indeed removed, and that the transportation package would be an Introduction Item on March 18th.

So, it looks as if these issues are up for a board vote, after all! The problem: If transportation is introduced on March 18th, the vote will not be until 2 weeks later in April, AFTER final decisions have to go in for school registration.

Why did the timing change? If they had the Introduction Item as originally planned on the 4th, then the final decision would have been on the 18th, before the registration deadline at the end of the month.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So Seattle Parent, it's confusing. Because you say it was listed on the Agenda (and I believe you)but why, if Harium says the Board doesn't have the power to vote for or against it, was it there? There must be some sub-issue that the Board DOES have to agree to but maybe not the actual times themselves.

It's a mystery.

seattle parent said...

Melissa,
You might be right about the board maybe having to vote the general plan but not the specific nuts & bolts ie 8 or 9am?

I think the Board members themselves are not clear about the process. Steve Sundquist said at his community coffee meeting that the first he had heard of the new start times was when it was presented at the last board meeting and he gave the impression that it was just an advisory, not that they would have any vote on the matter.

But what was on the agenad on Friday in the transportation proposal package posted, was very specifically start & stop times for all the school categories (elem/MS/HS & K-8). What I found strange was no specific school-by-school listing, like the original proposal to the board included, which we all have seen. So I quickly checked out the links & didn't see any, although I may have missed some as there were atleast four.

Unfortunately, I did not save a copy- I just copied the HS/MS start & stop section for referral in an email I was sending. Next time, I guess we learn!

momster said...

Has anyone heard any details or basis for Carla/MJG's statements that start times have no impact on academic performance?

I'd be interested to know 1) what studies they are citing, and 2) if they are refuting the U of M (Minnesota) study published in 2002 and information from the National Sleep Foundation

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, first, National Sleep Foundation??!!

whatever

I intend to sign up to speak, but I will be speaking about the Program Placement Update. The Board doesn't have a vote in program placements anymore than they have a vote on start times, so I won't be asking them to vote one way or another. Instead, I will be asking them to fulfill their duty to provide oversight.

It is the Board's job to review the decisions of the Superintendent and staff to confirm that they are compliant with state law, Board Policy, and the District's Vision and Goals. In addition, the Board should question the Superintendent's decisions to confirm that they are based on sound data and rationale. That's their job and the job that they promised to do. It is not micro-management; it's management. It's a big part of the accountability that they are supposed to provide and that the Superintendent is asking for.

Maureen said...

On March 1st, Harium Martin Morris posted this on his blog:

"In talking with people this week I believe that Lowell and Marshall will have the 9:15 start time. The K-8's will have the 8 start time. I am a little worried about that. One of the factors in people choosing a K-8 is the elementary start time for their middle school students."

If all of the K-5s start at 9:15, this could have a major impact on enrollment at the K-8s. I guess we'll all get to see how popular K-8s really are. If nothing else, it will make K-8s relatively more appealing to people who need to get to work early and don't mind paying for childcare (not necessarily the population that has traditionally been drawn to the alt K-8s).

momster said...

charlie - not sure i understand -
'whatever' is generally understood to be a derisive (if analytically weak) rejoinder - assuming that is so, are you being derisive about the existence of a non-profit that studies the impact of sleep, or the application to the discussion of school bell times of something it has published?

sonicgal1 said...

From Harium's blog, he noted the following: March 1, 2009 10:23 AM
Blogger Harium said:
There are several question aroiund when the start times will be decided by the district. As I understand this issue is not voted on by the board. Currently the board is working with the staff to insure that whatever change is made, it is done with input from the board. Than being said the final decision won't come most likely until the second week of March. There will be a presentation to the board at the March 4 board meeting.
SO - the 3/4 Bd Mtg would be a good time to air our thoughts on this issue (even tho its not currently listed on the agenda..??)

Charlie Mas said...

I was astonished (and, yes, derisive) that there was a National Sleep Foundation. I'm really not a nice man.

Did you know that this is National Sleep Awareness Week?

Upon further reflection, however, I suppose that there's an association for everything. So why not sleep? Hey, maybe I should join - unless membership is restricted to executives at Serta, Sealy, Simmons, and SelectComfort.

zb said...

"I was astonished (and, yes, derisive) that there was a National Sleep Foundation. "

How bizarre, that you'd be either astonished or derisive. Sleep is a important human function, and sleep patterns (sleep in newborns, for example, and sleep apnea in adults) are a major health concern.

Whether they have any practical data on start times, though, is probably rather unlikely, especially given that the relevant variables are probably season specific, and scientifically, it'd probably make sense to vary the start times with the seasons.

hschinske said...

We *do* vary the start times with the seasons to some extent -- figure in daylight saving time. Not that it's enough for our latitude, but it's something.

I can see that the National Sleep Foundation *sounds* kind of funny (and I bet people who work there get ribbed about it), but it sure is a serious subject scientifically and medically.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

Think of it: National Sleep Awareness Week. As if there were people who were unaware of sleep. I guess they are mystified by how time jumps from late at night to early in the morning.

I know, I know, it is more about awareness of the importance of sleep and awareness of sleep disorders, but it just sounds... goofy.

I assure I'm neither astonished by nor derisive of the importance of sleep or the dangers of sleep disorders. I'm aware of some of the work being done to learn more about sleep and its role in human health.

All that aside, I'm sorry, but the idea of a National Sleep Foundation just strikes my funny bone. Go figure. I just find it funny. I guess you just never can tell what will amuse some people.

Seattlehorn said...

Yup, it sounds goofy, like a National Digestion Foundation or a Respiration Awareness Society. Those of us who needn't give a second thought to those issues can count ourselves lucky.

Maureen said...

The District has posted a FAQ on the new proposed bell times:
FAQ sheet

(And I learned how to do cool links!)

TechyMom said...

AAARGH! "most" k-8 schools? which ones? Will they tell us before 3/31? My first choice is a k-8 school, but 8am would push it far down, if not off, my list.

SPSMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SPSMom said...

If you look at the "Transportation Report" there are three K-8s that will not move to 8am.
Blaine
TOPS
The New School (growing into a k8)

It does not appear that they are backing off from this proposal, but did back off from Lowell and T. Marshall moving to 8am.

I would like to see an analysis of how the bus rides are now shorter as they proclaim

Maureen said...

I am not convinced that the original K-8 8 am list will stand (and four K-8s were excepted, not three, Orca was one of them). At our (TOPS) Site Council meeting on Wed., our principal said that the time wasn't final--staff would have input, I assume that the other K-8 staffs will too.

I have to lead a tour at TOPS tomorrow, so I'm hoping our principal will know what our start time will be by then. (If it's 8:00, I'm going to have to let my 11 year old start drinking coffee, because there is no way she will be awake otherwise (an earlier bedtime will not help--she'll just sit there staring into the dark until 10:30--we've tried).

The FAQ says:
Standardizing school start times will bring a number of benefits to our students
and families.
• We will create consistency throughout the District.
• This will also reduce the amount of time that students spend riding school
buses, particularly for elementary school students.
• The changes will provide more consistent pick-up and drop-off times.
• We will be able to streamline bus routes for increased efficiency.
• In addition, uniformity allows for the same bus driver to drive the same
route consistently, creating a stronger driver/student rapport.


I just don't understand WHY or HOW standardized start times will accomplish ANY of this, except the first. What is the quote?

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" ( Hooray for Emerson and Google!)

SPSMom said...

"In addition, uniformity allows for the same bus driver to drive the same route consistently, creating a stronger driver/student rapport."

Um, we've had 4 drivers this year thus far, how does changing the start time eliminate driver turnover? Even the board must know this is just complete B.S. Right?

SeaGalBaker said...

New info on seattle public schools website says Thurgood marshall and Lowell will have 915am bell time, middle schools and highschools and most(?) K-8 will start at 8am

h2o girl said...

Ugh - not pleased with this at all. Currently we have the perfect situation, which I knew was too good to last - my 6th grader at Salmon Bay gets the bus at 8:20 am, across the street from where I get the Metro bus to downtown, also at 8:20 am. She gets home approx. 4:00 pm, and since soccer has been over she has an hour by herself three days a week until her father gets home at 5. (I'm home the other two days.) I do not want her home by herself for two hours - maybe I'm completely overprotective, but I can't do it. I suppose I'll be signing her up for several after school activities next year. Hopefully they won't cut those, or the activity bus that goes with them.

Stu said...

I know that it's a matter of money, and they need to balance the two bus tiers, but a K-8 program is six years of elementary school and three years of middle school. Treating the program the same as a middle school, at the expense of the sleep, safety, and health of the youngest students in the system, is insane. And the release said "most" K-8 schools will change? Which ones? This is crucial information!

Stu

Sahila said...

Four lawsuits against the closures (based on closure process anomolies) have been filed and served over the past week... one each for Cooper, TT minor, AAA and a combined one on behalf of 8 signatories from AS#1, Nova, Meany and AAA...

If we all hate this 8am start time/busing decision so much, why dont we all get together and act to force it to be changed?

I dont care about an 9am start time for AS#1 K-8 - my 5 year old son will be arriving at school at whatever time we get there, based on his body clock and sleep cycle/needs... we dont get the bus now as it is, because the nearest stop is two blocks away but they wont let him get on there because there's a major arterial between us and it, and the stop we've been assigned to is 12 blocks away and I have to get the car out to take him to the pick-up anyway... so, we go in the car all the way, there and back...

In all my lifetime observing and being part of bureaucracies, I have never seen so much stupidity and incompetence as I have seen displayed in SPS District....and people put up with it, which enables it and allows it to continue!

Sahila said...

OOPs - meant to type
"I dont care about an 8am start time for AS#1 K-8..."

They can assign whatever start time they like.... we will just be getting late slips every day and the district will just have to waste time and money sending me nasty little letters threatening me with nasty little consequences for failing to fall in line ....

SolvayGirl1972 said...

H2O Girl...
Be aware also that once your child turns 13, the Federal Government no longer allows parents to take the child-care credit tax deduction. So that extra expense will be coming directly out of your pocket.

As far as the IRS is concerned, we don't need care (after-school, summers, etc.) for our 13-yr-olds. I wonder how many members of congress have latchkey young teens?

seattle citizen said...

I think Charlie was actually scoffing at the idea of SLEEP, not the idea of a foundation!
It's beause he never sleeps, he's too busy researching, writing, and speaking about school issues.
Yea, Charlie!
I'd be happy to buy you more coffee.

Central Mom said...

Here's the bulk of the bell time FAQ:

In general, K-8 schools, middle
schools and high schools would all start at 8:00 a.m.; and elementary schools would start at 9:15 a.m.

Why is Seattle Public Schools proposing changes to bell times for schools beginning in fall 2009?

Seattle Public Schools is committed to providing every student with an excellent
education. Focusing our limited resources in the classroom is essential in order to achieve this vision. A key strategy of Seattle Public Schools’ five-year strategic plan, Excellence for All, is to increase operational efficiency throughout
the District. This will reduce expenditures, improve effectiveness of programs and
systems and allow resources to be committed to the classroom and schools.

Currently, schools across the District have their own individual start times. This creates logistical challenges in transporting students. The varying start times at schools increase the amount of time students spend riding buses because routes
to different schools are combined to maximize bus usage.
Standardizing school start times will bring a number of benefits to our students and families.
• We will create consistency throughout the District.
• This will also reduce the amount of time that students spend riding school buses, particularly for elementary school students.
• The changes will provide more consistent pick-up and drop-off times.
• We will be able to streamline bus routes for increased efficiency.
• In addition, uniformity allows for the same bus driver to drive the same route consistently, creating a stronger driver/student rapport.

Seattle Public Schools is currently facing a $25 million budget gap for the 2009-
2010 school year and is implementing a number of changes to increase revenues and reduce expenditures. Increasing the operational effectiveness of
school bus routes will save $2.2 million per year.

What changes are being made?

Most secondary schools (high schools and middle schools) and K-8 schools will begin their school day at 8:00 a.m. Most elementary schools will begin their
school day on average at 9:15 a.m., including Lowell Elementary and Thurgood Marshall Elementary.

A key component of the new transportation plan is “tiering.” Tiering means that a bus may drive a secondary school route to meet the 8:00 bell time, then will
immediately drive an elementary school route to meet the 9:15 bell time. The same plan would be used for afternoon school routes.
Another change is the use of “neighborhood attendance area stops” for schools/programs that have large geographical draws. An example is the elementary school A.P.P. program which will draw students from two large areas
of the city. These schools will use the neighborhood attendance area stops, which affects a small percentage of students within the District. Students attending schools/programs that have large geographical draws will walk to their neighborhood attendance area stop and be transported to their school, with additional stops added at community partnership program locations, such as
YMCA and Boys & Girls Clubs.

Why are high schools and middle schools starting before elementary
schools start?

Our secondary-level students benefit from many partnerships with city and community afterschool programs and activities. If secondary schools were to start at the later time (9:15 a.m.) this would prevent a significant number of students from participating in those valuable programs and activities. A
transportation task force will be created later in the year to review this question.

How will standard bell times impact high school students riding Metro during peak commuter times? Is there coordination being done between Metro and SPS to accommodate the increased capacity required?

Yes, Seattle Public Schools is collaborating with Metro on these changes. Standardized bell times will enhance the ability of the SPS transportation department to provide supplemental yellow bus routes to areas with limited Metro
service.

How will these changes impact Special Education students?

Standardized bell times will allow the District to improve service for these students and to maximize special needs yellow bus resources. Buses will be
more likely to be scheduled for multiple school runs, reducing the number of taxi cab routes now required due to varying bell times.

How will the new bell times affect afterschool activities and athletics?

The time difference in this plan will not have an effect on afterschool athletics.
Due to the earlier dismissal time, K- 8 programs moving to the earlier start time will now have the enhanced ability to participate in afterschool activities similar to
those currently offered at our Middle Schools.

This FAQ will be updated as new information is available and questions arise. We will provide additional information soon on how the bell time change may impact child care for families and on the need to balance system-wide efficiency with grade level educational requirements.

Prepared by Office of Communications, Seattle Public Schools

Updated 3.2.09

Charlie Mas said...

Actually, the ironic bit is that I suffer from sleep disorders myself. I usually sleep about four to five hours a night - but not always that much - and I snore very badly. My brother had sleep apnea that was literally life threatening. I am grimly aware of the importance of sleep to health and the dangers of sleep disorders.

Maybe it was gallows humor.

momster said...

I'm mystified by the FAQ's characterization of tiering as if it's a radical new concept in Seattle Schools - they already do it, which is why bell times are staggered now (middle and high schools early, elementary and K-8s late).

And there are very few schools that combine for one route, e.g., Wedgwood and AE2, etc.

With respect to moving the K-8s to 8:00, I wish the district would perhaps respect our intelligence and not manufacture reasons to support an operational decision they have made simply because they need the K-8 bus riders to balance the two tiers.

Cross-district middle school athletics? Really? My experience with K-8 athletic teams is that they are largely outfielded by the comprehensive middle schools, and the kids and parents aren't really there for those activities anyway.

And I wonder what these "valuable programs and activities" that middle and high schoolers would miss if they went to school from 9:15-3:15 instead of 8-2. Aren't these programs likely there to serve students and wouldn't many if not most of them adjust their schedules as well?

I would love to see the data on this, having seen far too many situations where someone downtown proclaims things to be true and manufactures reasons to support whatever change it is they want, which the barest probing (if you can get to the data or get someone to answer a direct question) reveals to be half-baked at best.

Another predictable disappointment from your Seattle Schools...

hschinske said...

I thought the reason for staggered start times (e.g., one elementary starting at 8:55 and one at 9:05) was partly so as not to have all the buses cramming through the neighborhoods at the same time (which is usually around rush hour anyway, in the case of elementary buses). I had assumed they were still going to do that kind of staggering, that the 9:15 was an average, but apparently not.

Helen Schinske

Maureen said...

So it looks like all of the K-8s are on the early list now (page 7):

transportation presentation

Have other K-8s already had early start? TOPS start time has been 8:55 (Middle School) and 9:15 (K-5).

Sahila said...

Some of us AS#1 parents are writing letters to the Superintendent and Board, informing them that our children will be late for school every day of the year because, as the adult responsible for their care and wellbeing, we dont think an 8am start is appropriate for them physically or educationally/academically....

I invite all other parents who dont want an 8am start for their elementary-aged child to do the same, and then to follow-through.... dont send your child to school for 8am.... make arrangements - car pool if necessary - to get them there for 9am or 9.10 or 9.15, whichever is the current start time...

See what happens...

I attended part of tonight's Board meeting....

I was a bit concerned that an APP parent thanked the District/Board for changing the start times for Lowell and TM back to the normal, but then went on to advocate 8am starts for elementary kids (she said young kids were physiologically ready to learn early in the morning - she hasnt met my 5 year old who has had sleep apnoea until recently and has a sleep deficit to make up, which has him sleeping most mornings until around 8am), and later starts for middle and high schoolers.

Sure wish some people wouldnt advocate for certain actions that are going to affect other people, without checking in with those other people that what they are advocating is something the other people want...

I like it when people speak for themselves! Dont make assumptions - makes an ass out of you and me!

h2o girl said...

Maureen, thanks for posting the link to the presentation. I love how the last section is "Develop Task Force to review 1)Start Times and 2)Customer Satisfaction." Hmm.

Oh and Salmon Bay currently starts at 8:55 for the middle school and I believe at 9:00 for the elementary.

TechyMom said...

Well, this puts Orca with it's hour bus ride out of reach for my family. TOPS may move out of 1st place too. 8 is just too early. At least in middle and high school, you could put a disposable class first period and be late a lot. In most K classrooms, they do math and reading first thing in the morning.

Was anybody at the meeting? Did the board members seem like the were ok with this proposal?

momster said...

The board members asked several questions of the staff and sup't on the bell times rationale presentation - couldn't tell whether they were honestly probing the logic or were doing it for their watching constituents (they each mentioned the amount of mail they've received on this topic) - and sadly, they didn't get much info or any decent answers out of the staff.

The new presentation materials from the meeting are here

See additional comments under the post about the board meeting itself.

Charlie Mas said...

Isn't there a customer service initiative in the Strategic Plan, "Excellence for All"?

And isn't the Transportation department the site of the pilot project for that new standard of customer service?

If this is the new standard of customer service that is going to be duplicated in every other department, then they aren't doing anyone any favors.

Central Mom said...

To save money, the District took months of public testimony and multiple reconfigurations of a plan that netted a reduction of @2500 school seats.

The District is now proposing to impact at least 3000 elementary students (figured at 10 K-8s x 2 classes apiece x 25 students per class) in more schools with almost zero public engagement.

Central Mom said...

To save money, the District took months of public testimony and multiple reconfigurations of a plan that netted a reduction of @2500 school seats.

The District is now proposing to impact at least 3000 elementary students (figured at 10 K-8s x 2 classes apiece x 25 students per class) in more schools with almost zero public engagement.

kellie said...

I have a bell time question for all those that might have some insight. Can the district do forced assignments to a K8 with the 8 am start time?

For middle school, the answer would seem to be yes as that would be the same start time as other middle schools.

But for elementary, this is clearly an alt start time. Is that meaningful?

Most K8's are alts but Broadview Thompson, Blaine and the new Jane Addams are traditional. Does anyone have any insight into mandatory assignments at those schools?

TechyMom said...

I don't know about Blaine and Jane Addams, but there are most definately mandatory assignments to Madrona K8.

kellie said...

Thanks Techy Mom.

I understand that traditional K8s can and do mandatory assignments whereas there are no mandatory assignments to alt K8s.

My now fairly esoteric question is does the non-standard start time for elementary students make these K8 also alt schools because of the non-standard or alternative instruction model.

In other words, can the district do a mandatory assignment to an 8:00 school for elementary students when the district standard is 9:15. Does this different start time make the school different enough? Probably not but this would be good to know.

SPSMom said...

I see now that all the K8's have been moved to the 8am start.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/board/08-09agendas/030409agenda/transportationpresentation.pdf