New Start Times Proposed

Thanks to Jason for the heads up on the new start times proposed by the transportation department at the last board meeting. This comment #42 on the list generated a lot of responses on the open thread so I figured I would give it a thread of its own.

Transportation overview presented
to School Board, February 11, 2009.

From page 8: Assumptions:
• All programs with middle school or older students will be considered as first tier programs when feasible.
• Due to school closures, some elementary programs such as APP may be moved to first tier bell time for maximum efficiency.
• Programs that draw from a large geographical area will have cluster-stop routing resulting in shorter ride times and fewer buses needed.
• Bell time differential is currently proposed at one hour-fifteen minutes with additional work needed to verify if a one hour or shorter
differential could be attained after cluster-stops and paired school splitting is accomplished.
• Proposed bell times are 8:00 and 9:15
• Bell time differential shorter than one hour-fifteen minutes will be considered for school year 2010-2011 after consensus has been gained that a shorter time is deemed appropriate.

From page 9: Schools to change to a proposed 8:00 bell time:
Aki Kurose, AS#1, Ballard, Broadview-Thomson, Cleveland, Denny, Eckstein, Franklin,
Garfield , Hamilton, Ingraham, Jane Addams K-8, Lowell, Madison, Madrona,
McClure, Mercer, Nathan Hale, Pathfinder, Rainier Beach, Roosevelt, Salmon Bay, Sealth @ Boren , Secondary BOC,
Thurgood Marshall, Washington, West Seattle HS, Whitman


Megan Mc said…
from the old thread:
Sahila said...

There's no way I am sending my 5-6 year old to be at school (AS#1) by 8am...

It'll be late slips everyday... and all the letters the district wants to write me...

2/14/09 11:32 PM
Josh Hayes said...

So, let me get this straight, the district wants more K-8 schools, but it wants the kindergarteners standing out in the rain waiting for the bus by 7 AM?

Are they completely mad? What an absurd idea.
2/14/09 11:42 PM
Dorothy said...
This post has been removed by the author.
2/15/09 8:14 AM
Dorothy said...

Quite a bombshell. Although it would make more sense, educationally and developmentally, to have all elementary schools start at 8 and high schools at 9. But here the goal is to put some elementaries with the largest draws (therefore the longest commute) to an earlier time. Really what they should do is put schools with the smallest commute bubble -- maybe Bryant and the like where lots of kids walk with their parents-- earlier.
2/15/09 8:21 AM
Dorothy said...

Now that I have thought about the start times for a bit, I think that maybe there might be some merit to the plan. Certainly some drawbacks for some, but possibly benefits for others.

Kindergarten kids at bus stops in the dark: How many little kids are left at bus stops without adult supervision? I don't think very many, but I could be wrong. Would Josh or Sahila leave their kindergartner at a bus stop alone at 8 AM?

Elementary school kids are supposed to get stops that do not require crossing an arterial, which leads to some serpentine routing. When my son was at Lowell, we could wave at the other group of kids 600 yards away, across the arterial waiting for the same bus. So walking to the bus in the dark - with an adult - should not be any more dangerous or onerous than it is now at 8AM.

Efficiency in traffic. My son got picked up at about 8:15AM and the bus was almost never late for school. However, I often volunteered at school starting at 9AM. If I left my house just ten minutes after the bus left, I invariably got caught in the Montlake Cut mess and was late. So given a choice of starting Lowell (where many kids would be crossing the cut on either I5 or Montlake) at 8AM or 9:15, it might make a lot more sense to start at 8AM.

The disappointment here is for the K8s, because many people tell me that a big advantage for them of the K8 is it avoids the middle schooler having to start school at 7:45AM. As noted in other threads, adolescents almost always have a biological clock that works against this. For some people I have talked to, this is one of their biggest reasons to choose a K8.
2/15/09 9:36 AM
jason said...

This 8am start time would be a MAJOR problem for our family - I am currently thinking this is a non-starter for our family. I don't know how most elementary kids are, but my kids do not naturally wake up at 6:45 and neither do their parents. We currently wake them at 7:45 with effort. This start time would mean a 7:30pm or so bedtime for many kids. This really cuts into the time working parents could spend with their children.

The kids would be waiting for their bus in the dark part of the year. It seems extremely dangerous to me.
2/15/09 10:19 AM
Sahila said...

I wont wake my son for school or anything other than an emergency (or perhaps a plane flight or a surgery schedule!)...

He goes to bed at a reasonable hour for his age but has had sleep apnoeia for most of his 5.5 years and doesnt wake until around 8am, sometimes later... he sleeps late because he needs it, not because he's lazy or we cant get it together...

Nevertheless, all things being equal, I wouldn't stand in the dark with him at 7am on a winter's morning, waiting for the bus... I wouldn't do that on a summer morning either... and I wouldnt ask any child short of their teenage years to do this... and I have already written on several occasions about the biological fact that teenagers' brains dont really begin to function coherently/intellectually until around 11am, so its a waste of time and money to expect them to be at school and to learn anything effectively before that time...

This all is just for the convenience of the system and is a hangover from the agrarian-to-industrial society transformation, which surely is no longer relevant - we aren't out in the fields any longer, sowing, tending and reaping from dawn till dusk; we arent working in the cities and having to go home in summer to help with the harvest...

Such unenlightened thinking, making kids carry the burden of cost cutting measures... but what else is new?
2/15/09 10:54 AM
Melissa Westbrook said...

I wrote to the Board when I heard 8 am start time for high school/middle school and asked if ANYTHING other than money is ever going to be considered when making decisions in this district?

If you are looking at academic outcomes for older students, 15 extra minutes isn't going to help (I didn't even hear about this K-8 eight am start - good luck with that.) I wrote to the Board about it and heard from Peter Maier about the Transportation department's presentation, can't go later, blah, blah.

So they aren't looking for the academic/safety outcomes from a later start for older students, it's just a money saver for 15 minutes for those students.
2/15/09 11:10 AM
mom of 3 said...

Will the high schools that use Metro be forced to the earlier start time? We've appreciated Hale's 8:30 start.

And our kids are currently on a 7:45 bus for Salmon Bay - I can't see my aspie ready for the bus by 7:00, I just can't!
2/15/09 11:36 AM
adhoc said...

Our kids were always voluntarily up bright and early during elementary school. They went to be early (8-9P) so were generally up by 7 or so on their own......even on weekends. It wasn't until puberty and the teen years that they really needed or wanted to sleep in.

Personally it would make more sense to me to have nieghborhood reference elementary schools start earlier, at say 8A. These kids generally walk to school or have a short bus ride, and wouldn't have to get up that early to make it to school by 8A.

The multi cluster and all city draw schools (elementary and k-8's) should start 9 or 915, as those students have longer bus rides and longer commutes. When my son went to Salmon Bay the start time was 915 but the bus picked him up at 815, so if the start time becomes 8A as the district is proposing the bus would pick up at 7A, and that is unreasonable.

For middle school and high school I would like to see a start time of 9 or 915A. This is when kids stay up later, and need a bit more sleep in the morning.

I wonder if Nathan Hale will be allowed to continue on the 830A late start time? I think HS's should be able to set their own start times as they mainly use Metro, so transportation costs really aren't a big factor.
2/15/09 11:38 AM
Megan Mc said...

My kids already have to get up at 6:30 because I start work at 8am. The new start time would actually save our family money because I could drop them off at school directly instead of paying for before-school care.

I totally understand the sleep issue though - I've always wished I had a schedule that allowed me to let my kids sleep in until 8am. Kindergarten was brutal because they didn't have naps anymore to offset the early wake-up. I wonder if the new start times will bring back nap time for the little ones.

It will probably mean more kids needing school breakfast in the morning and a shift in lunch time to accommodate the earlier hours.

After-school care costs would also go up if kids are done at 2pm instead of 3pm. And many after-school programs rely on high school students.

I sure hope the district is taking all of this into account.
anonymous said…
I would like to know why High school start times are affected since they generally use Metro instead of yellow buses?

If we make changes to start times to reflect best practices and outcomes for the students that is reasonable, but to make changes based on transportation costs just doesn't work in the case of high school.
Magua said…
Maybe the 9am start time was what was keeping families from opting into APP. ;-) Anyone still wondering what "access and equity" meant, it means you'll have a chance to put your kid on the bus as early as 6:45 instead of 7:45.

Interesting that not all of the K-8s are on the list. Esp. TOPS, which shares some routes with Lowell today, effectively subsidized by the additional transportation $$$ APP brings in. Can we look forward to SPS complaining about TOPS' spiraling transportation costs next year? Also Orca and New School aren't part of the proposal. Not sure why they are overlooked.
anonymous said…
You can add Blaine, to TOPS, ORCA and New School as K-8's that are not on the list to change to an 8AM start time.

As for high schools, NOVA which currently has an 845A start time, and Center School which currently has a 9AM start time are not on that list either.

I wonder why??
I think the issue of why high schools should have to have 8 am start times is because most schools have one or more yellow buses because of programs at the school where kids can't take Metro (either ELL or Special Ed). So, with no disrespect meant to those students in saying this, the entire school has to be on a yellow bus schedule even if it is only a few kids (this is my understanding from the Transportation department).

Now this could change under a new assignment plan if kids get assigned closer to home and programs are available at most schools (and therefore kids will have to access what is closest to them).

Yes, I saw that Center School isn't on there. I wonder how Ballard and Hale will feel about the roll-back. At least most high school kids would get 15-minutes more out of it but these kids lose 30 minutes.
TechyMom said…
There may well be a good reason why this won't work, but I have to ask...

Why couldn't the HS students who need yellow bus service arrive early, and have an elective, or breakfast, or tutoring or study hall? Why make the whole school fit to a schedule that has been proven to be developmentally inappropriate for teens?
ArchStanton said…
As an elementary APP parent, I don't know that I have any big issues with an 8am vs. a 9am start time by itself.

I do take issue with having yet more change thrust upon us. What are we? The district's whipping boy?

Do they figure we're so exhausted from dealing with the split proposal that we won't have the energy or inclination to fight this? Or maybe, we'll just realize they will do what they want and just give up.

Yeah, yeah, kids are resilient (and some of their parents are, too) - but that doesn't mean we need to bounce them off a brick wall repeatedly.
Laura said…
My son's bus to Lowell begins its route at 7:45 in the Broadview neighborhood. Thankfully, my second grader doesn't get on until 8:20 -- one of the last stops in North Greenlake before dropping kiddos off at TOPS and Lowell. If this bus route stayed the same next year, an elementary child would need to board the school bus at 6:45 AM! Proposals also include moving stops to more centralized locations --currently, as least two busses from Ballard to Lowell only stop at reference schools and community centers so the busses only have four or five stops. North Beach, Whittier, Greenwood, and Bagley Schools, for example -- EVEN THESE BUSSES START ROLLING AT 7:50! These stops are much farther from where people live. Many walk over twenty minutes or car pool to the bus stops. This means that for many, out the door at 6:30 AM!
dj said…
Surely this makes more sense for schools where bus transit is not relied upon by families.

My daughter's school bus time is already 7:49 (we do not use the bus because I can drive her in 15 minutes; because an hour on the bus is a long time for a first grader; and because she has reported bullying on the bus when she has tried it). Would the district really be putting kids on a school bus at 6:45 or so in the morning?

I'm feeling lucky at least that driving is an option for me. Yikes.
Ben said…
So what if parents need to get up at 5:45, just to get their kids up, dressed, and fed in time for a 6:45 bus?

You parents have been coddled for too long!

Seriously, it now looks like SPS is actively trying to drive families away.
anonymous said…
I feel lucky that I can drive my child to school too. I take my son to school every day which takes about 7 minutes in the car VS an hour long bus ride each way. I've said it before, a two hour roundtrip commute is absolutely unreasonable for a child. Heck, it's unreasonable for most adults. The long bus rides are partially a result of choice. Even kids attending a school in their cluster have to ride buses that snakes through many neighborhoods and pick up only one or two kids at each stop. Since their are 55 seats on a bus that's a whole lot of snakin and stoppin that they have to do.

If we had neighborhood schools buses would only have to go through one or two neighborhoods and pick up groups of kids at each stop. We have 7 kids living on our block that attend 5 different public schools. If they all went to one school the bus stop at our corner would be the stop that 7 kids used. Instead the district sends 5 different buses to pick up only 1 or 2 kids each. Long commute times are one of the prices we pay for choice.

Since we drive and don't take advantage of our lovely one hour bus commute, an 8A start time won't be that terribly bad for us. However I totally feel for families that would have to have their middle school or k-8 student up, fed, dressed, prepared for school, and standing at a bus stop by 645 in the morning. You'd have to wake the poor child at 6A or so. That's over the top and unreasonable.

And as for HS students who take Metro, the extra 15 minutes that they will now get in the morning (from 745 to 8A) isn't going to help. Many students have long Metro commutes and some have to change buses downtown (especially students coming from south to north). Some report getting on buses at 630A to make the 745 school bell. I guess they'll be able to sleep in now since they wont have to be at a bus stop until 645A for an 8A bell.
lendlees said…
There's another item for the district to think about. Since Lowell has historically not offered after school care, many of us have found options at schools nearer to home. This serves a couple of purposes--1) After school care for working parents; 2) Opportunities for socialization with kids in the neighborhood; 3) Cut down on commuting to Capitol Hill at the end of the day.

The after school programs at the elementary schools will not start until upwards of 45 minutes or so after the buses drop off. I'm not sure that they will be able to accommodate the change in start/end times.

Just another item to throw into the mix...
Sue said…
I think it's funny that when the post about the later start times first hit the open thread no one paid any attention to it until it affected APP and alternatives. Not saying that is bad or good, it just shows me to really take this blog with a grain of salt because most of the posters seem to be APP and alternative, which is a small portion of SPS, therefore everything I read is skewed to a particular viewpoint.

Is there a way to have this blog also serve as a clearinghouse for general education parents?

Just asking.
anonymous said…
My kids go to two traditional schools.
Teachermom said…
Keepin' on,

I think that is because the alts and APP have Elementary students that would have to be up and out that early.

The other affected schools are middle schools and high schools, where in most cases, the kids can get themselves dressed and fed and walk to the bus stop themselves.
Megan Mc said…
Keepin' On,

No one commented to Moose's comment because it was about later start times for HS (research says adolescents need the sleep).

It was the announcement of the EARLIER start times for K-8's and APP that stirred the pot.

As for the lack of a traditional voice on this blog, I can only speculate that since traditional schools have been largely untouched by district manipulation their parents aren't compelled to be vigilant watchers of district announcements.
Dorothy Neville said…
Since Lowell has historically not offered after school care

Correction. Historically, Lowell did have after school care. When the APP admission requirements loosened and population exploded, that was one of the things squeezed out.

Now with a regular ed (somewhat neighborhood based?) population in the building and perhaps a tightening of APP admission requirements (some other thread had rumors to that effect, with perhaps out of level testing) there may be room at Lowell for after-school care?

I also need to correct something I said earlier. The kids across the arterial waiting for the same bus were 600 feet away, not yards.

My kid's almost out of the system, I don't have any stake in any of this. But perhaps the outrage over having kids on the bus at 6:45 AM, people will realize that middle school kids have been doing this for years. Can the outrage against this lead to rational start times for all? That would be a great (however unlikely) outcome.
Ruthie said…
I believe the Lowell design team is planning to recommend re-implementing before and after-school care at Lowell, and I anticipate the T. Marshall design team will do likewise.

Lack of care at Lowell has been a major drawback for those of us whose kids are among the unruly hordes of the moderately gifted.
Beth Bakeman said…
Here's a counterproposal for the district that saves them just as much money as the current proposal.

* 2 bell times; 9:00 am and 10:15 am
Beth Bakeman said…
This school district did a study of start times:

School Start Times

If our district changes start times, I'd like to see a similar study on the impacts on absenteeism, drop out rates, GPA, etc.
Mercermom said…
Would the proposed "cluster-stop" routing help address concerns about small children being alone at a stop in the dark? I.e., if you're meeting at the local reference school, then there would be lots of kids there.

Re Lowell and after-school care, the Design Team said they're proposing YMCA programs for before and after care, so perhaps that will help.
jason said…
I also understand that they are proposing before and after school care at Lowell. On-site care would not help at all with this early start time. My problem with this plan is getting my kids up at 6:30am.

I have spoken with several Ballard families with kids at Lowell, and "walk to ride" busing has helped, but it is still a long bus ride. No matter what you do, getting from Ballard to Lowell is difficult. Maybe someone from Ballard can post with their experience. The "walk to ride" bussing has not been introduced on all bus routes yet.

I also don't see how having a bunch of kids wait for the bus together will ameliorate the problems with this start time. It will still be between 7 and 7:15 that elementary school kids will be getting on the bus.

No matter what the district does/says about other things they are doing to help with the early start time, it is still WAY too early to have kids get to school.
Central Mom said…
TOPS offers before and after school care. In past years, the program seemed weak, but with the introduction of a new director, staff and strong emphasis on programming and no tolerance of bullying, the past two years have been excellent.

As some TOPS/Lowell busses are the same, I'd suggest the Lowell design team and parents look at the possibility of also accessing the TOPS program. Some kids who go to TOPS have, in the past, taken a bus to the Montlake after school program, so this sort of creative transportation/after-school care must be logistically possible.
lendlees said…
Having after school care at Lowell is a great idea, especially for the general ed kids who live in the neighborhood. But for those of us who do not live or work near Lowell, having after school care nearer to our homes tends to be more preferable.

But having a difference in start times will make this option go away. I guess I didn't make myself clear in my first post.
Maureen said…
Mercermom Is that what "cluster-stop" means? (I thought so, but couldn't find a definition anywhere on the SPS web site.)

And Laura, what bus number goes to TOPS and Lowell and picks up at Bagley? It seems like my kid should be on that bus, but she has been on 711 and, now,719. I haven't heard of any TOPS buses being "cluster stop." I know they changed three north end TOPS/Lowell routes to separate TOPS and Lowell buses--didn't know why, seems so inefficient. I'm surprised there's a combined bus on virtually the same route.

I don't know why TOPS' start time hasn't been changed to 8:00. If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would think it is to increase the cost of buses attributible to TOPS so they can justify dropping our busing. But I'm not, so I'll just assume general incompetence!

From quickly reviewing the presentation, it seems to me that their idea of efficiency is not the same as mine. Their only incentive is to make sure every bus runs two routes in the am and two in the pm and that the number of routes is minimized. Number of miles driven and minutes spent on the bus per se are not variables they care about.
Free said…
If this change goes through, it will mean more siblings in the gen ed programs at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall, just so families can synch their schedules.
Sue said…
Megan Mc

I see your point, but must respectfully disagree that we parents with kids in traditional schools are "untouched" by district manipulation, and therefore don't pay attention.

Every dime that goes to transport alt kids to a school of their choice, is a dime taken away from all schools for learning. Every school that is closed means more crowding for the traditional high schools, middle schools and elementaries.

We do pay attention, because we get the shaft as well.
Beth Bakeman said…
The proposed change to an 8:00 am bell time for the new K-8 (Jane Addams, the other K-8s (AS#1, Pathfinder, Salmon Bay) will likely have a very adverse affect on enrollment.

Imagine parents of incoming Kindergartners considering John Rogers (with a start time of 9:15) or Jane Addams (with a start time of 8:00). For many parents, that difference in start times would be enough to make them decide against Jane Addams.

That same scenario will be replayed in West Seattle for Pathfinder and in all the other locations where a K-8 will need to compete for parents against K-5s with a later start time.

This seems particularly unfair to AS#1 since their continued survival depends in part on increasing enrollment.

And, from the outside at least, there is no clear rationale why some K-8s (TOPS, Blaine, Orca, New School) don't have the early start and some K-8s (Jane Addams, AS#1, Pathfinder, Salmon Bay) do.
anonymous said…
I hope Keepin on is also keepin his eye on the transportation dollars spent on transporting kids in traditional schools from one end of their cluster to the other. As I mentioned in my earlier post we have 7 kids on our block that attend public school, and they attend five different schools. ALl of these schools are within our cluster, and all are traditional schools. The district spends plenty to transport these kids from the far north part of the cluster to the far south part for Laurelhurst, Bryant, View Ridge, and every school in between. They send 5, yes 5, different buses to transport these kids. The district spends plenty of dollars on our traditional schools too - due the choice plan. I hardly think that the 6 or 7 alt schools are sucking most of the dollars out of the classrooms.
SPS mom said…
I applaud the district for attempting to achieve some additional cost savings and I am not totally opposed to an earlier start time. But I would like to see some optimization of the "cluster-stops" so that we can walk to the pick-up sites (say 0.5-0.75 mi. max walking distances?) and some measurable reduction in bus ride time. This would be more of a win-win situation for everyone.

Currently Bus 715 is serving Lowell "cluster-stops" in the NE. For us, the nearest pick-up is 1 mile away. If you can drive, that may be reasonable. But consider the transport time to walk 1 mile then bus 30-60 min. And school starts at 8:00...

I am the parent of two elementary aged kids - one in APP and one in our neighborhood school. It's already a juggle getting them both to school, but we make it work because APP serves the educational needs of our daughter. We will most likely work with whatever the the district throws at us because APP serves the educational needs of our daughter.

To KeepinOn and others - SPS receives additional funds to supplement transport of APP kids. It is my understanding that the monies actually go into a general transportation fund that helps fund transport for ALL kids. Kids at other schools are realizing a direct benefit from APP enrollment. Yes, transportation actually makes money from every bus riding child enrolled at Lowell.
ArchStanton said…
Re: the cluster stop arrangement, Lowell/TOPS, and route 719

A bunch of us Lowell parents on 719 were pretty squeaky wheels about the the inefficiency of the route (length of the bus ride, sharing the route with TOPS, the number of stops that were within blocks of each other, etc.)

They finally put us on 715 and limited stops to "clusters" mostly at local elementary schools. Partly to get us to shut up and partly to test the new idea to implement it more widely, next year.

(they first started discussing it with us in the context of Lowell splitting to Marshall and Hawthorne - they had some incentive to convince us the ride wasn't going to be two hours each way)

The ride time has improved significantly for our family, so that we are riding more often than not - not so sure if it's improved much for others at the furthest start/end points.

We have to be at our stop five blocks away at 8:15am. The change in start time would have us there at 7:15am. I'm not sure if that will have a positive or negative impact for us.
Sue said…

I re-read my post - meant to say ALL kids not ALT kids! Yikes - sorry for the typo.

What I meant to say, is because of the choice system we have, every dollar spent filling a bus with , say, 5 kids, whether traditional or alternative, is money that is not going to the classroom. This needs to change. If you don't go to your neighborhood school, you should have to find your own way to get there, or else pay a sliding scale fee for the busing. In fact, if we all paid a sliding scale fee for busing, I am sure we would not be in as much of a deficit now.

So, now I hope I have been clear - I support choice, but not all the free busing that goes along with it. You may feel free to argue with me about that opinion, as I just checked that my post has no typos.

(I also found it humorous that adhoc thinks I am a he - just for the record, I am a she);-)
Anonymous said…
seattlehorn said: "If this change goes through, it will mean more siblings in the gen ed programs at Lowell and Thurgood Marshall, just so families can synch their schedules."

Or even more families opting out of elementary APP. I think this might be the straw that breaks the camels back for us. At some point the benefit/drawback balance just gets whittled down below breakeven. And all at once.

- Our program cut in half, not only losing cohesion in the building that took years to develop, but losing 1/2 our teachers and much of the ability to pair for the best student/teacher matches. Not to mention all the other downgraded outcomes.
- There is discussion (sounds likely, unless lots of people speak up) of cutting up our elementary classrooms for PCP, even though this generally did not work well at Madrona. So much for the promise of not repeating the mistakes of last time. Empty promises abound. (See the Feb 1: APP Where Do We Go From Here thread)
- And now 2 of the elementary (K-5) schools in the district with the longest bus rides in the city are the only two K5s to be forced to start at a the ridiculous hour of 8:00?!

As ArchStanton said above, APP is the district's "whipping boy". How much are we supposed to take?! The administration supports advanced learning, huh? As long as it doesn't start working TOO well. That just wouldn't be fair, would it? Just keep beating them down until they leave.

Tom Bishop and everyone else on the design teams, listen up: this is ridiculous! As adhoc said earlier, it makes far more sense "to have the neighborhood reference elementary schools start earlier, at say 8A." They have very short bus rides or walk with parents to school. Far less detrimental effect.

Or better yet, if you stagger the neighborhood elementary start times you could have some of those buses handle more than one route/building in a cluster. Some are short routes, do check into that. Few would complain of an 8:50/9:20 start time cluster differential, and to be fair you could alternate them every other year. Think outside the box a bit. And be mindful that when you propose ridiculous options like 8am start times coupled with hour+ bus rides you are throwing gas on an already-burning fire.
One thing that has always puzzled me is the number of stops the buses make. Why not, as others have suggested, have fewer? That would save money and make the routes easier.

I'm not sure I agree with paying for busing. I just worry that those who have low-medium incomes wouldn't qualify for free/reduced lunch payment and yet, it would be a hardship to pay.

It's a thorny issue because we all know kids are different learners and one program, not in your own neighborhood, might not be what your child needs. On the other hand, if there is no money, it's not there. The warnings today in the PI about the state budget point in this direction.
Central Mom said…
I said this more eloquently on Harium's blog...

A 9-page ppt (plus 2 more for the cover and end slide) is no way to introduce a sweeping proposal to District citizens. The dept. didn't even bother putting it on a District-branded template. Before the transportation staff even starts, it's lost the opportunity to appear to be part of a unified District plan. And in communications, appearances are 1/2the battle.

In the presentation, there is no tie-in or reference to the new student assignment plan. Just to closed schools. And there is zero reassurance or at least background info to say that they have looked through the pros and cons of other districts who have done this.

Maybe a year of thought went into this. Maybe a month. Who knows. Even if there is valid reasoning here, how can the District not expect a hugely negative response when this is announced so haphazardly?
anonymous said…
I agree with keepin on in that I want to see choice stay, and stay strong, but I think families who choose a school other than their reference school should drive, carpool or take Metro.
another mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
another mom said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Josh Hayes said…
adhoc says:

I agree with keepin on in that I want to see choice stay, and stay strong, but I think families who choose a school other than their reference school should drive, carpool or take Metro.

I'm pretty sure I disagree. Do you mean that families who choose a school outside their cluster should provide transport? My reference school, for instance, is Olympic View, but in fact I'm closer to Northgate, and the same distance from Bagley as from OV. Are you saying that if I don't choose OV, I should have to deal with whatever transport needs arise?

What if I choose, say, AS1, which is in my cluster, but by virtue of being alternative, not a reference school for anyone? (Nor is Thornton Creek, or Salmon Bay, or any of the other "alternative" schools, of course.) I understand the need for reasonable transportation limits, but what you seem to be suggesting is, go to your reference school or you're on your own. For an substantial number of people in this district, who happen to be largely poor and/or people of color, that's sentencing their kids to a crappy school. I don't want to make anyone out to be intentionally screwing people of color, of course, but choice is what allows families to escape a wretched local school, and many of those parents cannot blithely drive to school or participate in car pools.
wseadawg said…
Many APP parents have floated carpooling and other proposals to cut transportation costs, but the district flatly says "no." Because of the busing money it receives that actually profits the district, and the fact that it is or was an all city draw, it is required by law to have busing available to students from the farthest reaches of the district. Another "access" issue. Since the bus runs by my house, my kids ride it to Lowell even though it takes 1.5 hours to cover a 20 minute trip. About 35 kids ride my kids bus, and about 35 ride the only other bus from my cluster. I don't know of any large bus that only buses 5 kids. Sounds like rhetoric to me, but then again, it wouldn't surprise me. The APP busing is literally driving for dollars.
anonymous said…
Yes, Josh I do respectfully disagree with you on this. I think that the district "owes" kids a ride to their neighborhood reference school or any alt schools that serve their clster. I also think the district "owes" kids a ride to special programs like APP, Spectrum, or special ed that can only be accessed at certain sites.

But that's where it ends for me. I think families should have the right to choose any school in the entire district that they want to, but not at the tax payers expense. If you choose a school that is not your reference school, and is not an alt school in your region, or a special program (like special ed, APP), then you drive yourself, carpool, take Metro, etc.

I honestly don't think the tax payers should foot the bill for anything more.

My kids are half black Josh, I'm no racist. I and am always taken aback by racial accusations.
Sahila said…
I think it would be good to look at the busing issue from a new perspective...

If I understand correctly, busing started as an attempt to deal with the problem of segregation, didnt it? And these days one of the reasons for continuing it is to ensure access?

Why dont we take all of those problematic justifications away and look at it from an angle that there probably wouldnt be any dispute about?

Why dont we say busing (for all kids) is needed because we owe it to the planet to cut down on pollution and carbon monoxide emissions and congestion on the roads, and busing our kids to and from school is one of the most efficient and cost-effective mechanisms for reducing our carbon footprint...

Then... we work out a school start schedule that meets the physiological needs of our kids, we scrap the environmentally unfriendly and unsafe (no seat belts) yellow buses and replace them with hybrids and then we plan bus routes that are workable and dont leave some families in the position where they have to drive their kids to the bus stops...

All of this is doable and would improve life immeasurably... but it takes will and it will take money initially.... and there are those who dont want to bite the bullet now to see a huge ROI later...

Instead, we tinker and we twiddle and cosmetically rearrange and we dont address the real issue... sounds a lot like life in the big world...
anonymous said…
As far as transporting kids to every school in their cluster (Josh points out that he is equally as close to Olympic View, Northgate and Bagley), I'd have to see some data on the cost of sending buses back and forth and all around the cluster. As I said in an earlier post we have 7 kids attending public school on our block. They go to five different schools, which means that five different buses stop on our corner. That seems highly inefficient to me, but again, I don't have any data, maybe it's not?? Are all of the buses full? My sons isn't. And we always hear the story (urban myth or truth) about the bus from West Seattle to AS1 that had 6 kids on it.

If nothing else cluster wide transportation must drastically increase fuel costs, and result in much longer commutes for kids. My sons bus takes 60 minutes to get to his school, and it only takes me 7 minutes by car.
Laura said…
Maureen, the bus that stops at Bagley only goes to Lowell -- it's part of the cluster stop trial (or whatever you want to call it).

I heard from the transportation office that more and more routes are going to split from the current TOPS/Lowell service -- don't know how reliable that information is.
Unknown said…
I've noticed that most of these comments are negative re. the 8:00 am start time. I'd like to point out the positive for working people - I could finally get my kids on the bus and have a chance of getting to work by 8:00 am (except that I may end up with one kid at a 8:00 am start school and one at a 9:15 start school, which is the worst possible outcome in terms of getting up and out of the house in the am). Note that you can't bus kids to before-school programs. And let's say you bus your kids in the AM to a 9:15 start school and then can't get to work until 9:00 (bus picks kids up at 8:15), meaning anyone with an 8-hour work schedule has a hard time rushing to get kids from an after-school program which closes at 6:00 sharp. If you yourself, as a parent, are reliant on Metro to get to work then it's even worse.

So I'm all in favor of the 8:00 am start time, but wish it was for all schools.
Anonymous said…
We can debate the analysis of the bussing issue to death. But for us, the real issue is: why are just a few elementary schools being subjected to the idea of an 8 am start time (and thus a 2 pm school end time)? As a LOwell parent, we've been through A LOT OF CHANGE already, and this would have a HUGE impact on our and other families.My husband gets home fr Redmond at 7-ish for dinner and family time -my kid will need to be asleep by 8 to make this work, severely diminishing family quality time. With commutes of up to 2 hrs r/t, this is too long a day and too early a start for many elementary kids. Why should transportation decide something as impt as start/end times for school? How will we coordinate an 8 am/9 am start time for our 2 (APP and non-APP) kids? Will teachers of after-school programs at Lowell still be willing to teach at 2:15 pm (instead of 3:15); will parents who use those programs be able to p/u their kids at 3:30 instead of 4:30? What about parents who have to coordinate non-Lowell after-school care (wh/would start an hour later to accomodate the majority of elementaries)? Why were we told of this proposal the day before break and blithely assured it will be voted on "sometime in the Spring"? WOuld that be AFTER open enrollment closes? Why were we told initially to voice our opinions to the principals and design teams, then told to ONLY email Bob Vaughn (APP advisor) and Transport. dept? I mean, this WILL affect enrollment choices and the principals at affected schools SHOULD be interested and involved. I'm speaking about Lowell because its what I know, but I know there are a few other elementaries involved as well. Why some and not others? I've seen no analysis as to why, and frankly, I dont care. With 2 working parents, in order to make an informed decision about my child's school choice, I need to know the exact start/end times.
TechyMom said…
As I said on Harium's blog, an 8am start time is pretty much a deal breaker for my family. Lowell and T. Marshall's general ed programs will be off our list. And, the list of affected schools could change. It could change after open enrollment. Some K8 schools are on the list, will TOPS or Orca be added? Not safe to pick those. It's more logical to have the neighborhood elementaries have the earlier start time, so maybe it will be switched after open enrollment? Who knows. Not safe to pick those either. Will the chaos never end?
jason said…
I have been doing more thinking on this proposed start time. It would prevent our family from participating in any evening events at our school, Lowell. Our child would need to be in bed by 7:30 to make this work, so no evening events for us.

Lowell has some great evening events, with lots of families participating. An early bedtime for the younger children would prevent many from participating.

I also agree with Sonicgal1 - this change would greatly diminish our nightly family time.
Unknown said…
In response to Jason - from the opposite perspective, we generally rule out M-Thurs evening events at Lowell because I cannot get my kids from after-school and get back to Lowell in time to make it worthwhile, (especially if I need to feed them) given that we need to leave Lowell no later than 7:30 in order to get kids in bed by 8:30. But if I were able to leave work early because I got there an hour earlier, it might be possible. Basically, no matter how you cut it, it's really hard to be active in your school if you work from 8-5, or 9-6.
anonymous said…
Sahila you are right "busing started as an attempt to deal with the problem of segregation". The questions to ask ourselves are:
Is busing warranted today? Does busing effectively deal with segregation today?

Consider my situation. I live on a block that has 7 kids that attend 5 different public schools. Five buses stop on my corner. All of the children are white, with the exception of our son who is bi-racial. All of us have the same reference school, John Rogers. Even though John Rogers is a good school by all measures, not one of the 7 families on our block go there. Instead they go to Laurelhurst, View Ridge, Wedgewood, Sacajewea and Bryant. And they don't go to these schools because they offer any special or unique program or philosophy. They go to these schools because they are perceived to be "better" as they are more affluent and their test scores are slightly higher. Should the tax payers foot the bill for this? It certainly is not elimiating segregation, or increasing diversity. In fact an argument could be made for the opposite. Busing is increasing segregation and decreasing diversity in this case.

Now lets look specifically at Bryant, my sons school. It is over crowded, and if you don't live in the reference area of the school you can't get in. There are no buses arriving at Bryant from far away areas carrying minority or low income children. None. There are no buses full of these students because A) there is no space for them and B) the current transportation policy does not allow for transportation outside of ones cluster except to go to a multi cluster draw school like the alts or APP.

Transportation has made a few exceptions over the years as they did in the case of busing south end kids up to Hamilton. It served their prpose which was to fill the building. However, now that APP is moving in to Hamilton, watch how fast the south end kids are moved out. This of course tells you that de-segregation and diversity was not the goal of the busing, but rather the goal was to fill the seats in the seats in the building.

As far as I can tell, busing may have come about to help de-segregate our city, but it is not working for this purpose today. So should it continue? Should we continue to pay to transport the 7 kids on my block all over our cluster? Personally, I don't think so. But I do think we should continue busing to multi cluster draw schools as it does work to diversitfy these programs and all kids should have access to them. And busing should be provided to unique one of a kind programs like APP, Spectrum, etc. But that's about it. I don't think tax payers should have to foot the bill because Johnny would rather go to Laurelhurst than John Rogers.
anonymous said…
I'm a taxpayer too and don't mind paying for school buses. Imagine the added traffic if buses disappear and parents all drive. Our area is prone to air inversions and smog, too. I'll gladly tolerate a few extra yellow buses any day if it keeps cars off the road during rush hour.
anonymous said…
The funny thing is that only 2 of the 7 kids on our block actually ride the bus, though the buses stop at our corner every single day. The commute is so long (an hour each way for my son) that 5 of us deem it unreasonable and don't use the bus anyway.
TechyMom said…
I don't necessarily agree with Ad Hoc, but...
I think she's saying that if more kids went to their reference school rather than other nearby schools, that more of them could walk to school, or there would be a single bus for that school. This might mean less carbon footprint. It would likely mean that less of the carbon was paid for by taxpayers, and more paid for by families.

That sounds great if your choices are the largely equivalent John Rodger or Laurenhurst, and not nearly so good if they are the very different Madrona and Montlake.
anonymous said…
I'm not even really saying that more kids should go to their neighborhood school. I beleive in choice and I understand first hand why a family would choose a school other than their neighborhood school. I have done exactly this for both of my children.

I'm certainly not saying that you should go to Madrona if it is your reference school, I'm just saying that if you choose to go to Montlake, and it is not your reference school, then you should be responsible for your child's transportation.
anonymous said…
... or when your closest school is already full. Then your child is busing to another choice in the cluster.
Josh Hayes said…
adhoc, I hear you, and I don't want to accuse anyone of being racist.

But -- and you knew there was a "but" coming, right? --

It's one thing to say that people should have to accept their reference school or schlep their kids themselves when one's reference schools are Bryant, Laurelhurst, View Ridge, and the alternative offering: Thornton Creek. It's an -- pardon the phrase, but it's accurate -- embarrassment of riches.

If we're not going to provide transportation, let's cut out the charade: you gotta go to your neighborhood school. End of story. Otherwise, we're allowing people with money, with time, with transportation, to cherry-pick the system, leaving those without that flexibility to suffer the crappy schools. And that is a morally reprehensible approach, in my view.

So long as there are blatant differences in quality between schools it is unreasonable to deny access; denying free transportation IS denying access. It's as simple as that. I want to reiterate that I'm not saying anyone here is a racist - but maybe there is a degree of classism going on? I know when my kids miss the bus I can jump in the car and take them, but how many parents have that luxury?

Now, what this has to do with new start times, I don't really know; surely busing is an incendiary issue, and shouldn't be tagged onto a thread of only tangential relevance. My apologies for carrying it this far.
anonymous said…
Hi Josh, in my earlier post I was speaking to Sahila's thought that busing de-segregating our city, which I disagree with. Now I'll try to switch perspectives and speak about your concern: the discrepencies between schools.

I acknowledge that there is a HUGE discrepancy between quality of schools and academic performance between clusters, but I don't think it exists so much between schools within a particular cluster.

The current transportation plan only provides busing for a child within his/her own cluster so (for transportation purposes) you have to look at the discrepancies between schools only within that cluster.

Are there large discrepencies in academic performance or quality of schools within the N cluster? NE clster? NW cluster? SW cluster? QA/Magnolia cluster?

I don't think so, but I could be wrong...anybody with personal experience please share.

I do believe there is some discrepency in the performance and quality between SE cluster schools, but not a tremendous amount.

The only cluster that I really see huge discrepencies between schools in is the Central Cluster which houses some of the districts top performning schools and at the same time houses some of the district most struggling schools.

So, if I am correct in that there is not being much disparity between schools within a cluster shouldn't we discontinue cluster wide transportation? Perhaps with an exception for the Central cluster, and maybe even for the SE cluster?

In the other clusters I really see huge disparity between schools and feel like it all boils down to personal preference. I know it does on my block....Johnny like Laurelhurst better than John Rogers.
anonymous said…
ARgh it's early. In my last paragraph I said "In the other clusters I really see huge disparity between schools and feel like it all boils down to personal preference"

What I meant to say is....In the other clusters I really do not see a huge disparity between schools and feel like it all boils down to personal preference
hschinske said…
I don't know about disparities in schools as a whole, but when I was touring kindergartens ten years ago, there were definitely huge disparities in the quality of kindergarten classes in the Northwest cluster. I'm not going to bother giving details, because I think things have changed a whole lot. It's quite possible the disparities are less now.

Helen Schinske
TechyMom said…
I've heard there are big disparities in West Seattle too.
I hate to break it to Josh but access is already denied to the "good" schools. The schools that are widely perceived as good have more students that live in their reference area than can be handled. There is no amount of bussing that is going to create any more access to the Bryant's and McGilvra's.

As long as distance is the tiebreaker, Bussing does NOT equal access. Bussing does create access the case of alt schools that use a lottery system.

So unless the entire district went to a pure lottery system, access is still determined by distance.
Anonymous said…
Isn't this a thread to discuss impact of proposed earlier start times/end times? I'm looking for feedback on how parents in the affected schools feel about this: advice on process and if possible, how we should approach getting "them" to drop this proposal, at least for the elementary-only schools (Lowell, TM, and ?) that already have long bus rides. I believe "them" is "The District", and that the proposal needs to be voted on by the Board, but that's all I've figured out so far.WE've been told to email Tom Bishop (Transp Dir) and Bob Vaughn (APP) but that's it. All this philosophical discussion about busing is interesting, but rt now impacted parents are frantically trying to figure out how to deal with yet another huge change as proposed by Transportation. We have no sense of the timeline except for close of Open Enrollment. Y'all are the experienced activists - any thoughts on this or should we/I start a new thread?
Charlie Mas said…
Speaking as one of the experienced activists, let me tell you that these start times do NOT have to be approved by the Board. Start times are an administrative and operational decision rather than a policy decision, so the Board will not become involved in the discussion.

The District can move forward with this bell schedule - or any other bell schedule they choose - without any Board approval required. The report to the Board (and through them, the public) was simply a courtesy.

The Board will not be voting on this. You can write to them about it, you can also write to the folks in Transportation, to Bob Vaughan, to the school prinicpals, or to the local media. I don't know if any of it will do you any good at all.

And that brings us to an important realization: if the Board isn't involved, then all pretense of community engagement is right out the window. For that matter, all pretense of consideration for the public's interest is right out the window as well. There is no point in the District decision-making process that anyone - ANYONE - ever asks or considers what the students or families want or need. No one in the District (except the Board) are accountable to the public so no one in the District (except maybe the Board - maybe not) gives a moldy slice about the public's perspective.

This goes to highlight how critically important it is for the Board to vigorously advocate for the public perspective and how horribly bad things can go if (or, rather, when) they do not.
Sahila said…
I dont know how we have influence over any District decisions unless we parents band together and take some concerted action.... you've seen what's happened with the closure issue... the majority of Board members refusing to listen to community input, cosmetic changes made to a plan thats inherently flawed and the implementation of which is now proceeding adhoc without the resources and forethought to make that process a success...

I've been choosing not to bus my kindergarten child to AS#1 because the bus stop is too far away for him to walk and so I have to get the car out anyway...

I still wont be using the bus with this earlier start time because I still have the problem of getting us to the bus stop...

But I wont be getting my 5.5 yr old son to school for 8am... we will have tardy slips every day and I'll be getting letters from the District threatening me with some kind of consequence...

And early start times mean early dismissal times, which messes up my work schedule, which I had specifically negotiated with my employer around my son's school day... which I now cant change because other people's shifts are synched with mine...

We've had an interesting discussion at AS#1 about our relationship with the system - there's been talk about not describing the District as 'they'... there has been expresssed a philosophical perspective that the District is 'we'... which is something about community and responsibility and accountability and empowerment, rather than victimisation...

However... I dont accept that point of view... nothing I have seen coming from the District and the Board over the 6 months of so of my intense experience with SPS has given me any indication that there is a 'we' operating, despite the fact that the community voted the Board into being and the District Staff are public servants...

I've said before that allowing the closure plan to go ahead as a cost cutting measure was the beginning of a slippery slope... and now we're sliding downhill quite fast... others have already commented about the lack of foresight, consultation and concern and the additional burden this decision will impose on children already severely impacted by change...

So, what to do? I think its time for the community to get together and do the Gandhi thing and refuse to accept these new measures... refuse to co-operate... passive resistance... agree as a community to get our kids to school enmasse for 9 or 9.30am start times... see what effect that will have...the District might then use that strategy as a justification for doing away with busing altogether, but that's another argument for another day...

What is this community going to do... just roll over and let it happen or draw a line in the sand and take a stand?
TechyMom said…
Can the board stop this if it chooses to?

If you read the thread on this issue on Harium's blog, it seems that he is not convinced this is a good plan. Perhaps other board members would respond to a letter-writing campaign?

But, that only works if the board actually has the authority to stop or change the plan. Does anyone know?
another mom said…
I agree with Charlie that changing start times does not require a Board vote. But I would not abandon the idea of pressing the Board on this issue. There are questions of equity here and the Board should question the Superintendent and staff about the wisdom of doing this. Her actions reflect on them and how much politcal capital are they willing to gamble?
Charlie Mas said…
This Board has been resolute about not overstepping their bounds. It was a campaign issue for a number of them - they ran against activist incumbents they accused of micro-managing the Superintendent. They all signed that stupid Affirmation of Responsibility which says that they will:

"Focus on the policy work of the Board and monitor progress on the indicators of success articulated in our strategic plan, leaving the day-to-day operation of the district to the superintendent and staff."

The Board has shown no appetite for questioning the decisions of the superintendent or staff. For these reasons and more, I would not expect the Board to intervene on this matter.
Anonymous said…
Charlie, yr feedback re the Bd may be a fact, but we need to find SOME way to fight this or at the very least, demand analysis as to WHY Lowell/TM are the only elementaries on the 8 am list (meanwhile some K-8 all-city draws and MS are excluded?). We impacted parents - already experiencing severe change (TM, Lowell, TTMinor)need to show whoever has power to say Yay or Nay to this proposal that it impacts way more than getting up an hr earlier. e.g. - day-end times; after-school daycare costs and schedules (wh/will now impact a significant FRL as well as working parents population); impact on special ed population; after-school activities will be affected; we may lose good teachers due to this?; working parents coordinating schedules of 2 kids at diff schools or non-site after-school daycares; and choosing the schools/kids w/v. long commutes already, pushing those commutes to a higher-traffic time. Those of you who think yr not impacted - think again, because Transp. tells me this is not final proposal, and other elementaries CAN and WILL be added to the 8 am list, even after Open Enrollment closes. So if anyone has effective ideas about how to demand analysis and accountability for including my school (yes I'm advocating for my school now, that's all I - and the other beleagured TM/TT/Lowell parents have the energy for post-split/post-closure) and getting it in front of the "Decision Makers" (the Queen, perhaps?) - for getting feedback on timeline and process - then please do tell. I know its not Bob "trying to hang onto my job here" Vaughn and T Bishop has never returned an email/vm all year - we've sent hundreds complaining about the already unreliable, inefficient bus service. Someone said TB was a MGJ pick - anyone know if that's true? Who controls Transp? Constructive suggestions are greatly appreciated, and otherwise, thnx for letting me vent!
Charlie Mas said…
Constructive suggestions... constructive suggestions... hmmm...


After you have written to the folks in Transportation, written to Mr. Kennedy, the COO, and written to the Superintendent, seeking a rationale and making your case, there are no more constructive actions you can take.

It must be time to either open the floor to destructive suggestions or quit contending the matter.

My first destructive suggestion is to pursue a WASL boycott by all APP students until the District fulfills their commitments to this community. Make a list of the District's stated commitments and set an objectively measurable benchmark for each. Then hold all of the APP students out of the WASL until every commitment is met.

My second destructive suggestion is a bus boycott. Don't put your children on the bus to school that arrives at 8:00. Instead, form carpools that will get every APP student to Lowell or Thurgood Marshall at 9:15 each morning. Let the buses run empty and let the classrooms be empty until 9:15. I wonder if the State will reimburse the District for empty buses. I wonder if the District's reimbursement is based on actual ridership. If so, then it will cost the District dearly to run empty buses.

These two actions would require a signficant amount of organization. It's not impossible or even improbable, but it will be difficult.

The other option is to quit. Enroll your child in another program in another school. You'll have other problems, but you won't have this one.

Ideally, the constructive suggestions would be successful. I would even find it good if the destructive suggestions were successful. Realistically, however, I doubt anything will work to change this plan. They have their own priorities and reasons for these decisions and your concerns simply carry no weight with them. Moreover, so long as people quit, your concerns never will carry any weight with them.

If you ever want to see any change, you will have to fight. You will have to fight for that change, and you will have to fight for future changes, and you will have to fight for every change until they get the message that you will always fight instead of quit.
Anonymous said…
I'm exhausted just fr reading yr post. Well, I'm trying to stay slightly optimistic here...and I want to use this forum to note that several pple w/in Transportation Dept have told me that this list is malleable and WILL shift as they add/delete schools from the 8 am start time. SO - raising a ruckus about why 2 all-city draw elementary-only schools on here and requesting analysis beyond the weak powerpt presented is only way to attempt to create accountability for the proposal. Thnx for addressing my concerns, and for all yr feedback Charlie!
SkritchD said…
8AM for K-5 is plain ridiculous. Not only that, several schools impacted by closures and changes to programs get hit again. Just keep piling it on. I think we might do much better in another school system.

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