Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bus and Bell Times

I couldn't recall if we had printed the schedule with both the bus and bell times.  Here it is.

Bummer for Denny students - they got the earlier start time rather than Chief Sealth High.  They start the earliest of all the middle schools (7:40 instead of 7:50 am).   Sealth gets to start at 8:30 am along with Hale, Center School and NOVA.

I was looking over the list of elementary/K-8 schools that start at 9:20-9:30 am and that strikes me as pretty late for many parents.  If you are at one of these schools, what's the reaction been?

Pinehurst, Laurelhurst, Van Asselt and South Shore are the "earliest" later starts at 9:10 am.  Is this a Special Ed issue?  I wonder why just 4 schools would start at 9:10 am. 

I also note that the start time for earlier start elementaries ranges from 8:20 am-8:55 am (with stops at 8;35 am, 8;40 am, 8:50 am).

48 comments:

Spruiter said...

I think the 9:10 starts are sharing busses. Wasn't Pinehurst going to share a bus with Olympic View and TOPS with Lowell? Wasn't the push 2 years ago to make all the times the same, now they are all over the map again!

We're at a K8, and were a little worried about the early time this year. The mornings have been a bit of a struggle, but we have loved being out at 2:35.

David said...

On the broader issue, it would really be nice if the school start and end times were optimized for students and parents schedules. Ideal for many working families would be to have school available from 9am - 5pm, working hours, with drop off as early as 8am and pickup as late as 6pm, no early dismissal days or other things that require scrambling for a baby sitter, and no teenagers at school in the wee hours of the morning when they are going to be half asleep in class.

I know, not going to happen in this district. But, you have to admit, it would be nice if they at least had a goal of optimizing start and end times around what works best for parents and kids.

Robyn said...

Why do some schools have days that are 5-10 minutes longer than others?

SusanH said...

After one year of an earlier start time at South Shore (which we were dreading but now love), our school is doing the 9:10 thing. The annoying part is the afternoon though. The middle school students need an extra 30 minutes of class time, so all elementary bus riders are going to have to line up in the rotunda and wait these extra 30 minutes before boarding the bus (from 3:15 to 3:45). I can see it now; teachers yelling at the kids to be quiet, stand in straight lines, etc. And what would be a 5-minute ride is now going to be 45 minutes or more.

Patrick said...

David, that would be nice. Do any public schools actually do that?

I'm glad Jane Addams schedule isn't changing -- 8:05 dropoff and playground supervision, classes starting at 8:20. I would not be happy having to pay for before-school care as well as after-school.

Charlie Mas said...

"it would be nice if they at least had a goal of optimizing start and end times around what works best for parents and kids"

I believe that the bus and bell times are set as they are to fit within the civil dawn and dusk times and thereby minimize student travel in the dark.

The elementary schools start later than the high schools - the opposite of what would be best for the students - because if it were the other way around, there wouldn't be enough time for the drivers to get from the end of their first afternoon route to the start of their second afternoon route before classes let out. I suppose they could fix that by extending the time between the first and second route in the morning, but I've never heard the reason that isn't practical.

As for the time difference between elementary and middle school and the impact on K-8s (elementary students having 30 minutes to kill after school and before the bus), I think that would be a PERFECT opportunity for all kinds of things including: supported homework time, world language instruction, supervised play, art, gardening, etc. It lacks only a little volunteer organization.

Anonymous said...

Huh - I have friends in Transportation and from what they've said, I believe nothing final has actually been decided about schedules yet - things are very much in a huge state of flux over the new plan - so I wouldn't count on this being the final outcome. There's lots happening "behind the scenes" on this...

--a reader--

Speechless said...

Contrary to David, I think elementary students spend way too much time at school. I would prefer an earlier start time, as well as a shorter day. For working parents? Good after school choices, no need to keep ALL kids where they don't need to be.

dj said...

I am glad we have flexible schedules, because the 9:30 start at my oldest kid's school is . . . well, it's late. So is getting out of elementary school at 3:45 in the afternoon, frankly.

Parent said...

It's hard to know how it will play out until we get letters from Transportation in August. We're also wondering about (and dreading) the "community bus stops."

David said...

DJ and Speechless, to clarify, I meant it would be convenient for many parents, especially single mothers and families with two working parents, if the children could be at school during all working hours. I did not mean that children would be required to be at school 9am - 5pm. The extra time in the afternoon should be optional (opt-out).

Charlie, it is interesting that a major goal of the current start and end times is to minimize the time in the dark. But that only raises the question whether that is what parents actually want. Is minimizing time in the dark really what most working parents want in terms of scheduling? Or would they prefer a 9am - 5pm schedule?

Charlie Mas said...

The travel in the dark is a safety issue and safety issues trump all others.

North Seattle said...

Not pleased about either the late start nor the way it was announced to parents in a 3 page letter from the principal that also announced Spectrum cohorts only for 4th & 5th grade and a $35 materials fee next year. Most working parents now have to scramble to find both before & after school care instead of just after school.

Do other schools have the $35 fee next year? If not, why just our school?

Dorothy Neville said...

"The travel in the dark is a safety issue and safety issues trump all others."

Well, teens travel in the dark, and they drive. Every year in our surrounding suburbs, teens die in the dark, in the morning, waiting for or walking to a school bus, hit by cars who didn't see them. I do not know of any such fatalities in the city. Do we simply have more visible streetlamps and sidewalks?

What is safer? Elementary school children escorted by parents in the dark in the morning or middle/high school children on their own walking or driving to school in the dark?

Fundamentally, school day and travel time fitting into civil day is impossible this far north, unless All students go 8:30 to 3:30 or thereabouts and no one travels more than 30 minutes.

Quick look at Bellevue and I see elementary start times around 8 AM and bus routes that fall during winter civil twilight or earlier. (

ericb said...

Dorothy - Your assumption that elementary students will be escorted by parents is naive or insensitive, I am not sure which. There is no way that any school board member is going to support a time that has kindergartners waiting at a bus stop alone in the dark on a winter's morning. They would (rightfully) be vilified no matter what the educational justification.

also speechless said...

Eric, are you seriously saying that a good portion of kindergartners are waiting for the bus alone? I am likely naive then, because I have never seen it.

Patrick said...

I go to the school bus stop and wait with my child. Now that she's in 4th grade, that's not really necessary for her safety. But what if the bus doesn't show up? If it's more than 10 minutes late, I'll go to plan B and take her to school. If I had left for work, she'd be on the street locked out of the house. She'd need house keys, a watch, and a cell phone. Given how good she is at losing anything that isn't attached to her, I want to put that off for a few more years.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Never heard of a fee for Spectrum. Nice to offer less service and then ask for money. I'm not even sure that's legal. You can charge for the AP tests (because the College Board does) but Spectrum?

Is this mandatory? I mean, they can't make you pay.

Anonymous said...

I think you'd be surprised at the number of young children who get on a bus unaccompanied, or other similiar scenarios - and with next year's infamous "community stops", the possibilities for those young ones getting on the wrong bus are fairly high - prepare for a bumpy ride (pun intended)

--a reader--

Steve said...

Hmmm...if they're charging for Spectrum, perhaps it's time for parents with kids who do well on MAP to start charging the district to their their scores in the District tally. If the scores are so important, they should pay us for them.

Tongue in cheek, of course, but this is the flip side to any MAP boycott. We'll take the test if you do X (follow through on promises made, etc.).

Anonymous said...

David - some schools do offer before/after school care on-site (and many others have similar care either nearby or a short yellow bus ride away). One of the reasons we picked the elementary school our kids go to is the excellent on-site before/after school care. So the school start and end times don't really matter to us. I'm not trying to sound smug - just appreciative. I am very very grateful that we were able to get into this school. Jane.

Dorothy Neville said...

So how does Bellevue get away with it? Elementary schools start around 8 AM, kids are getting on the bus in the dark there. Are parents up in arms to change that to later?

What about after school? Sunset is 4:20 at the winter solstice.

Unless we go with more buses and part time drivers, we will not get every student to and from school during daylight all year round. So what is safer and what is more developmentally appropriate (which has an element of safety as well) and what is maximally convenient for families? I am not sure, but I am sure that our current bus schedule is far from optimal.

Dorothy Neville said...

So are the School Board members in Bellevue vilified for having elementary aged kids waiting for the bus in the dark?

Jan said...

Melissa and Steve: I didn't read NorthSeattle's post to say that the materials fee was for Spectrum. I had assumed it was an "all school" fee. I am wondering if the thought is to do some "bulk purchasing" of supplies that parents are otherwise asked to provide one-on-one.

That said -- I don't imagine that it is legally enforceable against a family that can't/won't pay, just as they can't throw your kid out if he/she doesn't arrive with the correct number of spiral notebooks, etc.

It would be interesting to know what schools (and PTSA's) are doing in general around issues of "required" family contributions for crayons, notebooks, kleenex, pencils, etc.

Just sayin' said...

The discussion around elementary kids waiting for buses seems a bit unnecessary give the new neighborhood school assigments and no transportation provided.

I see kids walking by my house in the dark to get to Whitman. They look so young (& tired)! I would absolutely vote for later start times for elementary and high school.

RosieReader said...

Actually, at the Steve Sundquist meeting I attended during the "Floe" period, he mentioned that they were working towards the goal of a later start time for high schools. It takes a couple of years because there are lots of details to be worked out. Among other things, these include the "share the fields" contracts that the District has with the Parks department. Current contracts are predicated on the high school schedule ending early in the day. That allows high school sports practices to happen in the mid afternoon, and then the fields can be used by the community in late afternoon/early evening.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It takes a couple of years because there are lots of details to be worked out."

Really? Because I've been working on this for years (and now both sons are graduated). And I know it's not just me. As for staff working on it, I've never seen any evidence of that. I doubt it will ever happen given the sports/after school activities focus.

Anonymous said...

As a long-time TOPS parent (who is thrilled with the thought of new leadership!), the kids and parents in this house LOVE the earlier start and ending time. Going back to a 9:15a start time - having to share busses with Lowell - sounds awful. All of the Staff I've asked hates it as do all the parents questioned. Wish someone could do some sort of analysis on what it did to students' attitudes, scores and homework completion levels (if I knew where to start, I would, but don't although I'd be happy to help if someone were willing). My kids did much better in all aspects this year.

TOPS mom

Shannon said...

My son is at Lowell and I believe he will have a start around 9.30am and finish school at 3.45pm... (its on the later side) meaning his bus gets home around 4.20pm

I feel the day is already too long, its late to start (now conflicts with dropping off my younger child at preschool on the way to work) and makes a long structured day. Wish we could start earlier.

North Seattle said...

Sorry that I wasn't able to clarify earlier than now. The $35 fee is for *all* students and not just Spectrum.

"Next year there will also be a new $35 supply fee to pay for consumable supplies that the students use throughout the year. This fee will be collected when school starts in September and will be used to purchase supplies during the school year."

No mention of F/RL or any other exceptions, total fee limits per family, etc. I don't know about you but I can shop to get the usual school supply list for under $35 and so far there have been leftovers that come back at the end of each school year.

Anonymous said...

Our elementary requests a $20 fee for supplies for each grade. This is in addition to the approximate $41 per grade fee for everyday supplies (glue, kleenex, pencils, etc.)

It is not required, and a scholarship can be requested from the PTA.

- A NE Parent

Jan said...

NorthSeattle: that was kind of what I assumed might be the "deal" with the $35 fee. I wonder what all it covers? In years past, we have been asked to "buy" paper towels, kleenex, hand sanitizer, etc. etc. -- all for class use, and I always secretly thought that it ought to be easier (on parents, roaming the aisles of stores for just the right brands requested, etc.) and cheaper (because of the ability to buy in bulk) for the school to do the buying -- and just get contributions from families. But it sounds like in your opinion, you think otherwise?

I also wonder what it covers? If it covers notebook paper, copier paper, pencils (colored and regular), glue sticks -- I am SURE I spend a lot more than $35 on those things.

And finally, if the price seems high for the materials covered, I wonder whether it is set assuming that a certain percentage of kids simply will not be able to pay -- so it is targeted to cover what they assume will be that percentage.

North Seattle said...

NE Parent - yikes on the $61 total fee although I'm glad they communicate about scholarships through the PTA. Maybe school fees are more common than I thought?

Jan - it's the lack of detail that concerns me since those two sentences at the bottom of page 2/3 are it and we're 51% F/RL. I guess we'll find out more in August if we get the usual school supplies checklist to shop for?

Anonymous said...

North Seattle, it is a bit of a yikes as we have more than one elementary student.

The requested fees don't bar a student from attending school. Although, would suspect more and more common with all of the cuts to school funding and more and more PTA monies earmarked for funding actual teachers vs. providing extra for enrichment, art projects, field trips, and the like.

- A NE Parent

Charlie Mas said...

They can't make you pay for school. It's against the law in this state.

SP said...

Susan H at South Shore K-8 brings up an interesting point- that the 6-8th grades are required to have 6-1/2 hrs total time at school compared to the elementary's 6 hrs.

All of the comprehensive middle schools have the full 6-1/2 hours (Denny is actually 6 hrs 40 min), but South Shore is the only K-8 meeting the state requirement. All the rest of the K-8's show 6hrs15minutes (except for Salmon Bay which might be a mistake, showing 6hr15min for the 6-8 and 6hr25 min for the K-5).

This means 8 of the 10 K-8s are shortchanging their middle school students by 15 minutes a day. That doesn't seem much until you multiply that by 180 days and suddenly it boils down to 45 hours (or almost 7 full days) less instruction for those students. The district is well aware of this and ignores this state regulation each year when they assure the state that all our schools are "well within compliance".

Melissa Westbrook said...

I once did a public disclosure request for bell times over a couple of years. It was very eye-opening because the swing of time in this district can be quite large. One high school had a 45 minute lunch and most of the others had between 25-30 minutes.

As SP says, add that up and it is real time lost and yet the district continues to get waivers for their schedules.

Sharonus said...

As another TOPS parent, I'm very excited we're going back to the LATER start time. This will allow our family to have one parent drop off the kids, and the other pick them up. I understand that families have different structures and parents have different work schedules (not everyone works 9 to 5!) but this change will help both parents in our family develop relationships with our children's teachers.

As for all the staff hating the move to a later start time, I spoke with one of the TOPS kindergarten teachers last year when word of the move to an early start time came out. She seemed really upset, saying something like she didn't know what she would do with the kids that early in the morning. This year, all the kindergartners went straight to the gym after the bell rang. I think that was the teacher's way of trying to get the kids up and ready to focus in class.

I know the change in start times isn't the best for everyone, but I just wanted to provide a counterpoint to the "everyone at TOPS hates it" post.

Patrick said...

I think schools either send out a shopping list of supplies for parents to supply, or ask for a check to cover it. Ideally, of course, tax money should pay for the supplies, but that's not going to happen.

There are some advantages to just asking for a check. The same brands and styles are purchased, so kids don't fight over them. It saves time to make one big purchase instead of one for every family. It can save money because the teacher is making one big purchase instead of families making 30 little ones.

GAW said...

Sanislo parents have been screaming for attention on this issue for the last couple of years as our start time creeps later and later. What we've noticed:
-An alarming increase in the number of unsupervised children (including kinders) dropped 1 hour or more BEFORE the doors open by parents without the means to pay for before school care
-Significant decrease in parental involvement with staff at start of day due to need to drop and dash or the use of day care services.
-Despite promises of transportation within safety hours, busses do NOT deliver children before dangerous dusk hours in the winter (and yes, those children do walk home alone - not everyone has the flexibility to meet the busses)
-For the parents able to pay the price tag, increases of $500+ for additional childcare each month.
We've met with Sundquist and to date neither he nor the district has ever delivered the actual savings from this current transportation plan. Percentages are thrown out, but no hard numbers. I'd like to see the hard numbers, because the costs to our students and their families in compromised safety, failure to teach students during their best learning hours, decreased parental involvement and cold hard cash outlays keep piling up.
Furthermore, he did indeed report that the district is working on flipping the start times for high school/middle school with elementary start times, but the "historical" practices of playfield requirements are "really complicated." In other words, sports wags the dog yet again and despite everyone's acknowledgement that the best learning practices for children and teens is not being addressed by these start times, NOTHING WILL BE DONE ABOUT IT.

Maureen said...

SP says: This means 8 of the 10 K-8s are shortchanging their middle school students by 15 minutes a day.

This is a huge issue for me and I've been bringing it up at our BLT meetings for three years. Our K-8 used to have a longer day for 6-8 but it went away during the first round of transportation changes. At first our new admin denied the day had ever been longer (that was sort of surreal for me) and then they started saying that it was the union's fault. K-8s do run into trouble because K-5 teachers contract for a 6 hour day and 6-8 for 6.5, so the K-5 teachers aren't obligated to supervise the younger kids for the extra minutes. I've been told that SEA is working on a variation in contract language that covers K-8s.

I wonder how South Shore and Salmon Bay are able to work around that? I expect that SS has it written into their MOU and SB just works it out between staff and admin like our school used to. It may entail paying for extra recess supervision for the younger kids.

Re going back to the late start. I was surprised at how well the early start worked for our family and will actually miss it. But if that is the price TOPS has to pay to hold onto our north and south end kids then I think it's well worth it.

Anonymous said...

Sharonus said "I spoke with one of the TOPS kindergarten teachers last year when word of the move to an early start time came out. She seemed really upset, saying something like she didn't know what she would do with the kids that early in the morning. This year, all the kindergartners went straight to the gym after the bell rang. I think that was the teacher's way of trying to get the kids up and ready to focus in class."
I'm not sure I understand what this means. How would she not know what to do with the kids at 8:20a when she would at 9:20a?
And I did not say that "everyone at TOPS hates it", just those I have spoken to and heard about. I mention it because I was surprised at how many negative comments I'd heard. Thanks for providing the other side.

TOPS mom

wave said...

I'm definitely excited about the earlier start time at Stevens. I usually walk/bike with our two kids to school and then make my way to work, so next year I'll be getting to work 30 minutes earlier, which is a good thing.

Maureen said...

TOPS mom, I also wonder how the different start times impact tardy rates (that may be the issue the K teacher had--she may not have been able to start anything real becauae too many kids show up late.) If you contact me (MS BLT rep in the directory) I may be able to get you started on an analysis and would be happy to help.

Sharonus said...

TOPS mom wrote:
"I'm not sure I understand what this means. How would she not know what to do with the kids at 8:20a when she would at 9:20a?"

From my conversation with her, I understood it to mean the start time was too early, the kids would be sleepy, and it would be harder to get them to focus in class.

Depending on where the child lives and the time of year, they could be regularly rising before sunrise to get to school at 8:20am as opposed to 9:20am. I don't know about anyone else, but it's pretty hard for me to get my kids up before sunrise -- regardless of when they go to sleep.

Lisa Keith said...

I'm another Sanislo parent, and a meeting to speak with Sundquist to give feedback on this issue drew nearly 50 parents from our smallish school with only 2 hours notice. SOOOO MANY parents are unhappy with these later and later starts. GAW points out the biggest issues. I'd like to add that at our school, these late starts appear to disproportionately impact lower income families: they are the ones with the least flexible work hours, and who can't afford childcare, and so the kids showing up at school, unsupervised, up to an hour before bell times, are likely to be kids on free/reduced lunch.

Furthermore, the school district's bone that is supposedly going to be thrown us: $$ for before school programming to get those kids inside the building for safety reasons. Not that before school programming to keep kids safe inside a building is a bad thing, but isn't the point of the later start times to SAVE $$?

The district also keeps telling us that these late starts are in line with other local districts. Has anybody heard of any other place where elementary schools start at 9:35 am?

And as regards volunteer coordination to provide the programming--we are seeing less parent connection to the school with these late starts. Our school already relies very heavily on volunteer efforts for tutoring, event planning, in-class support, fundraising, etc. We are burning out the few folks we have who have the time to volunteer, and our PTA doesn't have the funds to pay for extra programming. We shouldn't be the go-to for providing babysitting (even if it is an opportunity for extra tutoring and enrichment) for kids who really should be in class by that time.

North Seattle said...

I should be clear: We're at Broadview. The school just updated their website for the 11-12 school year, the back-to-school shopping list is the same as previous years (except we now also supply "1 ream or more of copy paper") PLUS the new $35 consumable supplies fee. http://sps.seattleschools.org/schools/broadview/docs/k5_supplies.pdf

We are Title 1 with 50%+ F/RL lunch. What makes them think the majority of the students' families can afford this per-student fee on top of back to school supplies & extra childcare expenses for starting school an hour later than usual?

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