Monday, April 20, 2015

Seattle Schools Meetings on Wilson-Pacific Naming/Bell Times

Several meetings to put on your calendar.
From SPS Capital Projects Communications:

Seattle Public Schools is hosting a community meeting to share information, accept public comment and answer questions about the naming of the new middle school and elementary school buildings to be constructed on the Wilson-Pacific site.

The meeting will be held on Monday, May 4th at 6:30 p.m. in the Lincoln building auditorium at 4400 Interlake Avenue North.

Seattle voters approved the February 2013 Building Excellence IV (BEX IV) Capital Levy, which included the construction of a new middle school building and new elementary school building: both are scheduled to open in September 2017.

For information about the Wilson-Pacific and other BEX IV construction projects, please visit If you have questions or comments about this and any other Seattle Public Schools capital project, please contact Thomas L. Redman, Capital and Facilities Communications, at or 206-252-0655.

From SPS Communications:

School Family Partnerships' Neighbor to Neighbor program has scheduled five regional community gatherings to receive input on changing school start bell times. Anyone in the public is welcome to attend and provide input on whether the district should:

1) maintain current bell times, 
2) adjust bell times by swapping current elementary and high school start times, or, 
3) add an additional period to high school allowing families to opt for later start and end times.

(Editor's note: that number 3 is a new one to me.  Interesting.  I also see the first meeting is tomorrow - talk about short notice.)

Community Discussions
•    Tuesday April 21, from 6-7:30 p.m. – Highpoint Neighborhood House (6400 Sylvan Way SW, Room 207)
•    Thursday April 30, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Hamilton Middle School Commons (1610 N 41st St.)
•    Tuesday May 5, from 7-8:30 p.m. – New Holly Gathering Hall (7054 32nd Ave. S.)
•    Wednesday May 6, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Garfield HS Cafeteria (400 23rd Ave.)
•    Tuesday May 12, from 7-8:30 p.m. – Chief Sealth HS Cafeteria (2600 SW Thistle St.)

As a reminder, family surveys from the meetings can be dropped off at the dropbox on the first floor of the John Stanford Center, at your local school, or emailed to

Here's hoping that these are not uber-facilitated meetings and there is allowance for REAL community discussion. 


mirmac1 said...

SPS has to provide some information and assurances that providing the "extra" period does not mean that students requiring special transportation or a specific class is not confined to a single option that precludes him/her from band, athletics, or extracurricular activities. Plus, how much would option 3 cost?

Patrick said...

As we fill out my daughter's 9th grade schedule, I think of my own 7-period day in high school and how nice it was to take electives even if you were taking a foreign language too. Another period of the day could be very nice, of course depending on the fine print.

ProSleep Mom said...

They are NOT proposing a 7th period. Kids would still have 6 periods, but they could elect 1-6 or 2-7.

There are many unanswered questions about that option- including:

- transportation- we have 83 buses serving high schools, mainly for sped and gifted- do they get a choice of times? (Equal access laws would seem to require this.)
-what is the cost of doing double transportation for those buses?
- if students can pick a start time, what about teachers? Seems like a big CBA issue.
-what is the cost of having the building open an extra hour?
- would staff have to be there all 7 periods? what would this cost?
- scheduling issues- staff meetings, breakfast (twice?) lunch, early release days, etc. If there are two lunch periods, what is the effect on high school clubs that meet during lunch?

This option will cost significantly more than the other one, and does not address the current issues with middle school being too early (American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends all middle and high schools to start after 8:30 am), and many elementary schools starting too late (9:30).

I'm on the task force and am trying to get these questions answered for several weeks, but have not heard back.

Anonymous said...

So, for a student to be able to "choose" whether or not to start with 1st or 2nd period, that would mean that the required "core" classes could not be scheduled for 1st period...only electives? I wonder how that will work scheduling-wise, especially with our high schools becoming more and more crowded?

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

The third option seems a little wacky. It just feels like there would be too many variables to make it work. And the issues brought up here are definitely food for thought.

I think middle school and high school start much too early and elementary starts too late, so I'm voting for the 2nd option.

Also, in theory I agree with Patrick (even though this is not an option on the table): have a 7th period. I also grew up with a 7 period schedule for junior high and high school. PE was mandatory (which I think is wise no matter what) and then we had luxury of choosing 2 electives with no strings attached versus the PE waiver situation that SPS has. But, then again, a 7 period schedule would put middle/high school kids in the "too early" bracket. Sigh.

North End Parent

Anonymous said...

I smell a rat...The district staff would definitely prefer to leave start times as they are now, so they're now throwing out a half-baked option of adding a 7th period (whatever that would actually mean and regardless of whether it's realistic) to add confusion.

Beyond that, the email I received from the district lists the options in a different order, which seems suspicious and could create additional confusion. For example, comments above talk about voting for option #2, which is flipping start times per the email from SPS Communications. However, the options are listed in a different order in the email I received from Seattle Schools Public Affairs. In that email, flipping start times is option #1. Here's that email:

The district has scheduled a series of public discussions around start of school bell times between April 21 and May 12. Hosted by the district’s Neighbor to Neighbor program, these facilitator-lead discussions will allow you to offer your feedback for consideration by the district.

Currently, the district has identified three potential options regarding bell times, which will be the source of the discussions:
• Flip of elementary and high school bell times
• Extend the high school day by adding an optional seventh period then offer students the option of late arrival
• Keep things as they are

Why this confusion and why this additional option at the last minute?

Also, does anyone know if people have to go to the meeting to get the survey to submit a "vote", or will the survey also be available online? Of course, as cynical as I am about the district, I have no confidence in a fair tallying of the "votes", but I'll still submit the survey.

In my mind, there's no doubt that flipping the start times is the best option for the kids. When summer ends, the thing my middle school and high school kids dread about school starting is not school itself or homework; it's having to wake up so early and always being tired. The science says teens need later start times, so let's listen!

-Seattle Parent

Anonymous said...


Wake up and smell the bait-and-switch.

The bell time flip is a fantasy. Staff are resistant, and the Board is lame.

'Flipping bell times' is a fantasy. The REAL deal here is the high school capacity crisis.

They NEED more 'thru-put' in the existing high schools they have. They must intensify the utilizations. How to do that? Make Rainier Beach 'sexy' so that families will 'pick' it. Hence IB at RB. But, that is a drop in the bucket. Since QA/Mag are missing a high school, and all 4 northern high schools are full, and that's even with exporting APP students down to Garfeild, what to do? STAGGERED SCHEDULES.

It won't be pretty.

It was considered at Garfield, but it was understood it wouldn't work (for periods 2-6, the entire student body will be present -- god bless band -- cramming 100 kids into a band relieves two classrooms -- band is what is saving several popular schools right now!).

So yeah, there will not be any bell time flip.

Even if it is good for kids. Even if it is great for kids. Even if all the science says it is imparative for kids. Even if it will CLOSE THE OPPORTUNITY GAP, which really ought to be a driving priority. It won't happen.

It is all about high school utilization through put. Ingraham will get portables to add about 400 more students over time. Lincoln will open. And, there still won't be enough seats in the north. So, split shifts it will be. Staggered schedule sounds so much nicer, or even better, a '7 period day'.

I wish the staff would flip it, but the political will isn't there. Watching them set the Jane Addams Middle School bell time said it all. They are not serious about honoring kids, nor are they serious about closing the acheuvement gap.

Sharon Peaslee had her chance to do this, but she didn't make it happen. She kept her eyes on a k8 and missed Charles Wright's insubordination. And now, the capacity crisis means it won't be happening. Hence 'option' 3.

Don't shoot the messenger.


ProSleep Mom said...

I am concerned about the Task Force and how our input has been limited; I believe some previous task forces have had the same issues. Confusing the choice by having different numbers attached to the options doesn't help. But I will say the at the oddly/misleadingly(?) named 'Extended Day Option" has been on the table (at least for the staff) for over a year.

Regarding the flip- it is not a simple flip of elem and high school. It is a modified flip where:

Elementaries are at Tier 1 and 2

All High Schools are at Tier 2

all Middle/K-8s are at Tier 3

This does put 100% of middle and high school students at 8:30 am or later (again, as recommended by American Academy of Pediatrics). For the elementary families that hate the 9:30 start, it solves their problem. I tried to get a further modification that would put K-8's in more biologically appropriate Tier 2, but they said it would cost too much and would not consider it.

No schedule will be perfect for everyone, but I think this one does balance the various priorities as well as can be done, given that we seem stuck with a three tier bus schedule.

Please go to these meetings and speak up for the Modified Flip!

PS Also, at the SCPTSA April meeting, I asked Flip about north end capacity. He did say that if portables are needed, they will go on parking lots, rather than sports fields.

Melissa Westbrook said...

DSTM, I think your analysis is probably right. When I saw that "third option" I was immediately suspicious. And you can tell that staff doesn't want this.

Anonymous said...

I hated the 3rd tier. Absolutely hated it. My child didn't get home until around 4:30. I was glad when my child moved on to middle school and we could go back to an earlier release time. There's now time to do sports and homework after school. I cringe at the thought of going back to the 3rd tier.

Let's remember there used to be a two tier bus schedule instead of a 3 tier bus schedule. Going back to a 2 tier schedule would eliminate those late 9:30 starts for elementary, but the cost would be prohibitive.

change averse

kellie said...

I have not been following this taskforce. However, it seems that the simplest answer has been completely over-looked.

A large part of this problem stems for the three-tier bussing structure that was sold to the board by Tom Bishop, who is no longer employed at the district. SPS ran on a two tier start time for as long as anyone can remember. AFAIK, all of the districts in the area also run on a two-tier system.

When this plan was sold to the board, there were more than a few promises that have never materialized. The *plan* would involved about 15 minutes shifted in the schedule for *some schools* and it would have generated over $5 M in savings.

So what do we have now ... We have three tiers with Tier 1 starting extremely early and Tier 3 starting extremely late. The *small adjustments* have naturally morphed into three full tiers.

And the savings? Can anyone clearly document the savings with this system? I have seen nothing that shows that this three tier system saves any money.

The three tier system is a clear example of the tail wagging the dog. It would be one thing if this crazy set up actually worked but it doesn't. I have heard so many educators talk about how it seems like 8:30 should not be that much different than 7:50, except that it is a world of difference.

Anonymous said...

A question about the proposed tier flip flop (Elementaries are at Tier 1 and 2; All High Schools are at Tier 2;all Middle/K-8s are at Tier 3)- maybe I don't understand the bussing system, but this doesn't seem to make sense from a transportation standpoint. How does it help much with buses to have a 3rd tier that is only middle school & K-8? I thought that the majority of middle school students now get Orca cards..

So, Tier one would probably have well over half of the 60 elementary schools; Tier 2 would have the remaining elementary schools and the high school Sped buses, and then for tier 3 would be middle school Sped buses and the elementary school kids for the 10 K-8 schools. Doesn't that seem like tier 3 would be significantly smaller? Or are the numbers of elementary school bus routes low compared to the number of Sped buses for middle school & high school (this is possible since the elementaries have small assignment areas where many kids can walk, while the middle & high school assignment areas are much larger)?

Just wondering if someone knows enough about the buses to explain this.

Mom of 4

Anonymous said...

I served on the Superintendent's Transportation Task Force some 5 or 6 years ago. The claim then was that with a three tier system, the district can run fewer buses than with a two tier system, resulting in cost savings.

However, at my kids' school, TOPS, we had persuaded the transportation department to experiment with running buses that made fewer stops, picking up more kids at each stop. The stops were located on arterials so that the buses would not have to drive on slower, neighborhood streets. The new system required sacrifices from some families who had to travel longer distances to their new bus stops, but our school community was united behind the new system in order to reduce cost and save bus service for students who had spent several years at TOPS, but were at risk of losing bus transportation under new district rules.

The idea was that each bus would make only 4-6 stops on a route, running on arterials. We hypothesized that the buses would run fuller, be faster and that we would be able to run fewer buses to service the students at the school more efficiently. We developed this proposal with Tom Bishop, the former transportation head, and presented it to the School Board as an example of a productive collaboration between our school community and the District.

The Transportation Dept was supposed to report to the Board on whether the neighborhood stop system resulted in the savings we anticipated. But, Tom Bishop was gone and they never made the report. Our school community asked for the report multiple times. I asked for the report at the transportation task force meetings.

I continue to believe that a two tier system with modifications like the neighborhood stop system might result in enough cost savings to make it a better option than the three tier system. But, it's hard to make the argument without the data.

TOPS Parent

NW Mom said...

Mom of 4 - not sure if all the K-8s work this way, but my kid got school bus transport to her K-8 all the way through 8th grade. So that may bump up the 3rd tier numbers.

3inSPS said...

I think it is a mile outside the MS you get yellow bus service. Inside that you get an orca card.

Anonymous said...

3inSPS - Middle school students living 1.5-2.0 miles away get an ORCA card and those living 2.0 miles away get a yellow bus. 1.45 miles away on Seattle hills is a long way to walk when it's dark and rainy at 7 am!

Anonymous said...

Not all school communities can make the adjustments needed for neighborhood stops. Our elementary child would have needed to walk over a mile and across several major arterials in order to make the neighborhood stop (at a nearby school). In terms of distance walked and arterials crossed, it would have imposed less stringent middle school safety guidelines on elementary students. During the transportation discussions (years ago) there was also concern about elementary students standing in the dark during morning pickups. I thought this was one reason elementaries were not in the 1st tier.

What's more important - that elementary students get to school safely, or middle school students (maybe, but maybe not) get more sleep?


Anonymous said...

@Mom of 4

If my kid's school is any indication, the number of buses needed to service attendance area/assignment elementary schools has declined dramatically, due to a combination of the NSAP and the loss of grandfathered transportation to attendance area schools. We've gone from 7 buses to 4, including Special Ed buses.

There aren't a whole lot of kids who live outside of the walk zone, but within the attendance area, and qualify for transportation.

Most K-8s are option schools, and option schools have transportation zones that cover at least one middle school attendance area, and sometimes multiple middle school attendance areas. They also tend to serve more students than an elementary school, and transportation is provided for grades K-8.

So, even though there are fewer K-8s than elementary schools, per school, they probably use more buses, so the middle school and K-8 tier probably has about the same number of buses as the other tiers.

- North-end Mom

mirmac1 said...


I'll tell you what I've heard from staff since the 3-tier system: "Oy! We spent more money because of those darn SpEd busses. Why exactly? Um, we don't really know!" Frankly, the only class of students entitled to transportation are: students with disabilities; homeless students; and the truly gifted. So the specious whining would piss the hell outa me. I'm glad that lately some directors actually probed the "why?" But of course no specific were EVER available.

kellie said...

The whole "what does transportation cost" thing has always been a great big black hole.

Between the complexities of the reimbursement system, in which, there are gaps between the actual cost and the reimbursement - so that you can make cuts that wind up costing you more money, plus some of the funky per student costs, I have never been able to follow actual costs.

During the closures, AS1 and Summit were both cited for closure because of their high transportation costs. However, those schools shared busses to save costs but yet, both schools had the full cost of the busses for both schools places on their closure costs.

While the logic of a three tier system would run fewer busses, makes a sort of superficial sense, it is almost impossible to prove because it also makes for longer system that has more hours and more traffic hot spots. Ultimately, while we pay for busses, we also pay for "bus-hours."

The only way to run fewer busses is to run fewer busses. At this point in the system, there is almost zero grandfathered transportation of any sort, so the total number of students who are transportation eligible has to have held steady or declined, despite overall enrollment growth.

Before this third tier, transportation would combine routes for two nearby schools. This would cause only a 10-15 minute bell time gap between the two schools. It would also mean that students had one ride that was longer and one that was shorter. That system seemed to actually generate fewer busses.

I honestly don't understand why one of the options does not involve a return to a two tier system.

And if what has been reported to mirmac is even vaguely correct, that a third tier has caused sped transportation to increase, that alone should be enough reason to go back to two tiers.

IMHO, the three-tier system creates at a minimum tremendous inconvenience for students and families and at the upper end, a real learning issue. Once again, sped students and families bear this disproportionately.

SPS was sold a plan that did not save any money. It is a plan that no other district uses. But yet, changing that plan is not one of the options??

ProSleep Mom said...

The Task Force rated the different options and of course, Two Tiers won hands down. Admin said, can't even consider two tiers, it costs too much money and they came up with a number that I can't make sense of. They said it would cost an additional $17 million to switch to two tiers. I don't get it; currently, according to the Winter 2015 report filed with OSPI, we are running 734 routes with 339 buses- unless there is more to the story, which is quite possible- we currently have 2.16 tiers.

Our whole transportation budget, including admin and misc overhead is around $31 million. So how could going from 2.16 tiers to 2 tiers cost about 50% more? This does not make sense.

Regarding the Modified Flip buses, in the abstract it is possible to do this schedule with about 235 buses in each tier. However, the buses come in 'clumps' by school, so they can't always be divided perfectly. Still, in theory, this option could create some cost savings, as it should be more efficient than our current system. (BTW, Bob Westgard said our system was currently a 2.5 tier system.)

My analysis of the various options, based on the information given the Task Force, had Modified Flip costing about a bit under 1/2 million additional; Extended HS day about $2 million additional; and two tier about $6.5 million additional. The actual number may well be off due to lack of information, but the relative costs should be pretty good. (Note: these costs are just for transportation- Extended HS day could have lots of other hidden costs- offering breakfast twice, having the building open an extra hour but with only 1/2 the kids, extra admin costs, etc.)

mirmac1 said...

Chris Jackins was quite clear during the change to 3 tiers that any "cost-savings" measures contemplated by SPS would result in, doh, less state funding. That did not seem to register to those who don't think they need to listen to facts. So now that the whining intensifies, staff seems to forget that the Jackins' chickens have come home to roost. So who pays for their refusal to study the OSPI funding rules as Chris has? Well, certainly not Bishop and his various successors (who've also come and gone). No, it is the students and families who are told to continue to suck it up - meaning continue to tolerate violations of IDEA by having sped students delivered late and pulled out early; placing kids on dangerous routes and denying children access to after school activities (unless you drive them).

Are you better off now than three years ago? I say hell no!

Anonymous said...

2cents, right now many elementary students come home in the dark, during afternoon traffic, because they are in the third tier. That is much less safe than early morning. So they would be safer in the morning, and also middle schools students could get a biologically appropriate amount of sleep.

Of course the problem is that we have to choose between 7:30 and 9:30. Those are both ridiculous start times for elementary students. 7:30 is slightly better, but I agree it should be 8:30. I am hopeful this two tier discussion above can lead to something!


Anonymous said...

" But, it's hard to make the argument without the data."

Best quote of the day (thanks, TOPS Parent).

And with this District, there is so rarely any data. They either don't have it or won't share it.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that the only realistic way to make later starts work for middle & high school is to go back to two tiers. Everyone seems to think that it is fine for elementary school kids to start very early, but this also means they will be dismissed very early. For my family, we'd sure be hoping for a 2nd tier elementary start, because if the youngest one is home for the day by 2:00, but none of the older (middle school) siblings get home until 4:30, then she's either going to have to start spending a lot of time in day care, or I'd have to make pretty significant changes to my work schedule (we'll see how often the older kids are late if I have to leave for work before they are up in the morning).

Having two tiers, where half the kids start at 8:00 and half at 9:00 would be much easier on families with kids in different schools. It isn't so much an issue of what time they start, it's the two hour difference in the start times that causes problems.

Mom of 4

NW Mom - K-8 middle schools USED to get transportation; as of this year they get Orca cards like other middle school kids. They are allowed to ride the elementary bus if there is room, and a lot do, but I know a lot of kids in my daughter's class who take the Metro buses (and several who carpool because their parents aren't comfortable with them having to change buses, etc).

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