On Switching High School/Elementary Start Times

From School Start Later-Seattle:

As a brief update, the school board approved transportation standards for next year that will move us to a 3-tier system in order to save approximately $3 million.  It was impossible to get the school board to consider putting secondary schools in the later tiers and elementaries in the earlier tiers.

The good news is that Sharon Peaslee, board president has introduced a resolution to make analysis and community engagement on start times a high priority and then to decide, based on feedback whether to flip elementary and secondary start times for 2015.  The resolution will be introduced on 3/5 and voted on 3/19.

We need to win this vote in March otherwise the district will halt any further progress on the issue.

Thank you for all of your recent emails.  They made a major impact and helped bring Peaslee's resolution to the table.

Please write to board directors and urge them to prioritize analyis and community engagement on start times. Let them know that student learning, health, and safety will improve with later secondary starts.  If you have elementary students let them know that earlier starts would benefit younger students who naturally rise earlier.

Write "prioritize start times" in the subject line, as last time they got so many emails they couldn't read them all!

Sharon Peaslee: sharon.peaslee@seattleschools.org
Sherry Carr: sherry.carr@seattleschools.org
Harium Martin-Morris: harium.martin-morris@seattleschools.org
Sue Peters: sue.peters@seattleschools.org
Stephan Blanford: stephan.blanford@seattleschools.org
Marty McLaren: martha.mclaren@seattleschools.org
Betty Patu: betty.patu@seattleschools.org
School Board (all members get copy but can’t respond): schoolboard@seattleschools.org


Anonymous said…
We can't find space for all of our programs and now this is supposed to be the big priority?

We have no space, new standards, failing programs, equity issues and no money.

Flipped times would be nice but not what I want staff to focus on for the next 3 years.

North Mom
Po3 said…
North Mom - K8s and some elementary are schools slated to start at 9:30 next year, while MS/HS are starting at 7:50.

There are schools where young children will be BOARDING busses at 4:10, which means they will walk through the door at 5pm.

I think this a priority now because it's hard to unring the bell. (pun intended.)

Anonymous said…
I would love a board resolution that mandates the transportation staff provide reports that we did, in fact, save $3 million with the recently-approved changes. I don't believe the district or the board has every looked back at these decision and determined if they worked from a financial point of view.

- ShowMeTheMoney
A-mom said…

Last time the board considered sunsetting grandfathered transportation they decided against it. The cost of portables at neighborhood schools in order to handle the influx of kids that had been getting transport to a school outside of their neighborhood zone would have been prohibitive.Where will the money for portables come from now? Will this money be deducted from the 3 mil.?
Not to mention the disruption caused for all of the children who have to change schools because their parents can't drive them to their current school.
What if we all came to our senses and realized three tiers is not workable?
This supposed 3 million is a one time savings, because the state will give the district less money in the next budget if they are not spending it.
Will it cost 6 mil.< to dig us out of the state funding decrease hole and unring this bell in a few years?
Anonymous said…
Why couldn't we "engage" about this issue for the upcoming school year? It seems like a problem that we could address more quickly...what reasons did they give for the delay?

Anonymous said…
I am conflicted on this issue. Yes, I see the benefits and agree that a later start time for HS (and MS) would be good. However, I do not want my future high schooler to start at 930 any more than I want my current and future elementary school kids starting at 930. Isn't there concern about young kids having to be out at the bus stop in the early morning for their bus? And, I will need my older kid(s) to help with the younger ones in the afternoon when that time comes.

It comes down to my personal feeling that the 3 tiered system is the problem. And, I get the funding issues/dyanmics/limitations. I just don't like the idea of just switching ES and HS start times. Great for those folks whose kids benefit and definitely not for those folks whose kids would not. I do not think any school should start later than 9am. This allows for the later start time afficionados and for those who want their kids to be able to participate in after school sports/activities. I hope the district can make this work and not just follow the loud voices wanting a time switch.

Anonymous said…
The loud voices want a time switch not because of personal convenience, though, but because of the reams of science showing that this would be better academically for older students, and disproportionately better academically for low income students. That absolutely has to trump keeping the status quo convenience for a few families (and ignoring the families the switch will be more convenient for- it's a wash). I can't even begin to think our dysfunctional our district is if they can't make this one, potentially cost neutral decision to help all students and especially disadvantaged ones. This is the kind of thing that should be cut and dry.

And honestly I am extremely wary of their "community engagement" plans. In the last several years those have mostly been opportunities for the politically savvy and well connected schools to push an agenda at the expense of less connected schools. I don't think it's positive, and frankly I assume doing this will just screw the schools I am associated with in ways they wouldn't have been if staff could neutrally use research and science to make decisions as opposed to decisions being the result of interest group lobbying. This is the kind of decision that should be made downtown, if we could trust downtown. Enormous "if," I know.

Jamie said…
I'm with Sleeper on this. My kid has a "zero period" class, so she starts school at 6:50 every day. It's ridiculous. I do agree that school should start no later than 9:00, but see that might not be possible.
Anonymous said…
@ sleeper - I'm not disagreeing with you entirely. I don't want those advocating for a later HS time doing it at the expense of Elementary school students. So, I'm disagreeing with the loud voices who want what's best for HS students but with no engagement or consideration with ES families who don't want their kids starting at 750am.

Feel free to advocate for a later start time. No need to make this about switching start times though. Seems easy enough but only because it benefits those wanting a later start time for HS. I see ES families not wanting to start at 9:50am but I have yet to see families advcating for a 750am start.

Does that make sense? We're limiting our recommendations to what we think is easiest (switching start times) and that recommendation is not the best.

Anonymous said…
I thought it pretty interesting that on the recent KUOW coverage of school bell times moving to later for older kids and all the supportive evidence that it was also stated that the change in bus schedules would do the opposite in that elementary schools would start later. TM proposed bell time would be 9:40am leaving her to do no learning in the 3 hours of the morning that she is most alert. Granted my child is a super early riser but hearing them say they realized that the bus schedule would at least temporarily working in the opposite direction of the actual goal is disappointing to put it mildly.
Anonymous said…
I almost always agree with Melissa.

I VEHEMENTLY disagree that switching little kids to 0750 and HS kids to 900 or 930 promotes safety for anyone.

Little kids at the bus stop in the dark at 0700? at 0710? Not safe.

Little kids with an extra hour or more unsupervised in pm b/c older kid is in later school, or the kid is who is 10 or 12 and spends an hour by himself now until parent gets home is suddenly spending two or more hours alone?

This switch is NOT safer for elem. kids. It made be healthier for high school kids, but it is NOT safer for little kids. Period.

And I find it interesting that lots and lots and lots of people are speaking for "the disadvantaged" or the "at-risk" who really "need" this switch, without actually asking the parents of young kids who are struggling what they want.

I have no hope that engagement will actually reach the people who don't advocate for themselves. The middle class high school parents who are exhausted by college prep homework and activities will be heard (HEY I'm one of them) but the financially struggling elem. parents, who are suddenly faced w/after school care bills they hadn't expected b/c older kids can't watch their little kids or b/c the gap between the end of school and end of work is too long? Will THEY be heard?


Usually I think this blog does a good job of all sides, but this topic has been the glaring exception for a long time. Can't anyone admit that there are a FEW good and reasonable arguments for NOT putting little kids at 750? Maybe they don't outweigh the other side, but can the powers here PLEASE acknowledge that yes, starting little kids early does create a few problems with safety and long spaces unsupervised after school -- and not everyone can afford child care.

And let me say, it's a pipe dream to say "the elem. schools will just host more quality after school care for little kids at a subsidized rate for those who need it if we flip the times... we'll get some initiative to provide child care for kids at school"... well, to them I would say you have been over-indulging in your recently legalized product b/c there isn't going to be a matching push to provide quality child care for the kids whose parents can't afford it in the 2 - 4 hours between early school dismissal and end of workday.

Signed: Concerned
Anonymous said…
Elementary school children on the whole are earlier risers, and have a similar though less pronounced learning slump in the mid to late afternoon. 3-4 is not a very focused time for kindergarteners, as anyone who has ever met a 5 year old knows. I believe in the Brookings institute studies the difference between elementary age students starting at 7:45 vs 8:45 was zero (no difference), but no one would have ever studied something like 8:45 to 9:45, since that late of a bell time is possibly unique to Seattle (and maybe a few other outliers I'm not aware of). So I am not exactly advocating for early bell times for elementary, but I don't see that as a harm, and I see it as a potential benefit at least over starting at 9:40. I guess 8:30 for elementary and 9:30 for middle and high school would be ideal, but if that's not happening 7:50 does not strike me as that bad, from both a working families standpoint and to me, more saliently, an academic outcomes standpoint.

Anonymous said…
Concerned, I would actually quite prefer my elementary aged child starting at 7:50 than 9:40. Either way involves walking to or from bus stops in the dark, but the evening bus rides on tier 3 will involve walks home in the dark during rush hour, and more frequently since the evening bus rides are so much longer with traffic. I am much more concerned about that from a safety standpoint.

I agree both times are quite extreme, though.


1) I'm going with the research and I believe - if well-planned - this switch could happen.

2) there have been numerous comments AGAINST this idea so nothing has been censored.

3) we are always open to guest submissions so if you want to write one and send it to us, please do. No one ever has.
Anonymous said…
I agree that no school should start later than 9am, however I think there would be barely any kids who would not benefit from the switch. It has been a proven, scientific fact for years that high school and middle school kids don't function so early in the morning but elementary kids do. Speaking as a high school student in SPS, I can assure you that I don't WAKE up until 8:00 even though i GET up at 6:30 everyday. Remembering to being younger and at my elementary school, I remember being fully awake by no later than 7:30 to 7:45. I personally think that it is far more important to be awake and functioning and actually taking in the stuff taught at school than it is to be able to participate in after school activities or jobs. I hope SPS Board gets their priorities straight, and soon.
Anonymous said…
How will the HS kids do internships if they don't get out of school till 4:10pm?

And I know most posters here think afterschool sports, and other activities like yearbook, school newspaper, drama that are usually done after school hours are not priorties; but in my and my friends experiences, they were a very integral part of highschool. Learning to be part of a team is crucial.

Anonymous said…
I don't know why kids can't do sports or jobs or other after school activities at 4:00 or later. My kids do all those things school sports, jobs, volunteer, choir, etc. They prefer the ones that start at 7 or 8pm. I don't see the magic time that they have to start at 2:30.

Seven hours a day seems like plenty of time to fit in homework & some activities. And if some kids want to sacrifice sleep for more activities, they would have a choice to get up before school & go for a run, do homework or work the early am shift at the coffee shop without demanding that every other student loose sleep too.

Don't worry about teamwork being neglected in today's high schooler's school day. Group projects take more of the day than many parents care to see. Students learn teamwork with a much bigger diversity of kids than the ones who make the cut for basketball.

-need sleep
Lynn said…

If you're thinking about the IBX students, I think their internships are meant to take place during school hours. Extracurricular activities are important - but nowhere near as important as instructional time in the classroom. We need to schedule that at the time that allows students to learn, and arrange other activities around that. There are before school and after school hours. Families can decide which activities work for their schedules.
just saying said…
Shouldn't elementary students start earlier than middle and highschool students? Elementary kids tend to get up way earlier, it is harder to wake teens.
just saying said…
Why not start elementary somewhat earlier (not before 8) and extend their day by adding in more recess time! They need it and the teachers need the planning time!
Make the MS and HS start later and then the older kids will be out in time to take care of the younger kids.
Anonymous said…
But it doesn't matter whether elementary students start earlier or high school ones do for childcare. Either way, the elementary school day is only 6 hours and 10 minutes, several hours shorter than the average work day, and right now many families have to pay for before schools are who cannot really afford it because their high schooler is already gone. I certainly can't waltz into work at 10 am after I drop off my elementary student. I imagine most families could drop off their elementary student on their way to work with a 7:50 start, though. It would probably be an wonderful boon for full time working families, to be able to engage like that.

If it switches, then those families will not have to pay for before care, though other families who were getting by without it will have to pay for aftercare for the same amount of time. It is absolutely a wash, and families who currently benefiting from convenient logistics at the expense of the just as many families who suffer is an unfair status quo bias, given the science in favor of the change.

After school activities can be moved later, and there will now be before school time for the high school kids who are early risers. But they won't all have to.

Anonymous said…
I did not realize that there were so many jobs availble to teens where they only need to work a couple hours & then take off for school.

It's quite evident that most of the posters here are not in situations where they need their children to work part time; but almost all of the immigrants' families I know do.

No, I wasn't thinking of IBX, there are many places that have afterschool internships for highschoolers. I did an internship at a UW lab in highschool 3-6pm. These are usually not available passed 5pm. Most people in these organizations have families that they want to go home and eat dinner with.

We are not in the Clinton's years anymore, jobs and internships for teens are not so easy to come by. And I don't know if they still have this law or not, but when I was in highschool it was not legal for teens to work past 9pm.

Team work for group projects are not the same as the team work for sports. Different skills set.

Anonymous said…

I still do not understand why work & sports & school newspaper have to happen at 2:30? In fact they don't all happen at 2:30. School sports share fields & gym, they have staggered practice times at the different high schools my kids attend. Some before school, some right after school, some in the late afternoon or evening. Rec sports leagues & select sports leagues practice afternoons & evenings & even weekends. Nathan Hale has a later start time so none of their sports start at 2:30. They have a high participation rate & their size is continuing to increase, so you don't see most families choosing to send their kids to a different high school with an earlier start time so they can play sports.

Both of my kids started working at age 14. Their work schedule changes between weekdays, weekends, summer & winter and often they are reassigned each semester. Many of my friends' kids work at grocery stores or restaurants & they get a new schedule every week or so. I don't know a teen employer who has each employee on the exact same schedule year-round, weekdays & weekends and can only start at 2:30. Not saying it is not possible, but it is not required to be employed.

There are many great internships in the summer at UW, when kids are available more daytime hours.

Families who want to pack in 10 hours a day of activities can do that no matter what time school starts. If they want to get their teens up at 5:00am or 6:00, they can. (I regularly worked the graveyard shift in high school, midnight to 4 am, should I demand that from all kids?) But it is unfair to demand that every teenager in the city lead the same sleep deprived life they want for their kids when the research clearly shows that it requires academic, health & safety sacrifices for most teens.

The current schedule does not meet the needs of all families. A changed schedule will not meet the needs of all families. We should go with the research on what is best for most kids.

-need sleep
Anonymous said…
Need Sleep

Many families cannot afford the $$$$$$ and travel time needed for rec league sports. Do you think those Rainier Beach & Garfield kids who have been consistently taking their teams to State in Basketball and Football would be able to play if their families had to pay several thousands $ (or lets get real here, ANY $) each season?

Nathan Hale starts at 8:30, not 9:30, and it is only one school.

It is not so easy for teens to get jobs these days. Even MickeyD is hiring adults and college kids. So much fewer opportunities when they cannot start work until after 4:30 or 5pm.

Fewer interships possibilities if only time teens can do it is summer. AND in summer they would also be competing with college students. Who do you think will get chosen for the few internships avail? HS or college students? You mentioned UW, many profs go on vacations or do fieldwork/conferences in summer also. They are not there to mentor the kids.

I don't know when you were in HS but when I was, we were not allowed to work past 9 pm until senior year. Has that changed? Are you saying some kids, whose families need them to work, should work late into the night or graveyard so more affluent kids can sleep in till 9am?

I guess all these teens who can't function until 9:30am will not be taking any classes earlier than 9:30 when they get to college? When I was at University the Honor classes were held at 7:30am, goodbye to honor chemistry etc then?

I do not understand the absolute faith in this research. I'm not saying the research is right or wrong since that is not my field and I can't comment on the methodology. But it does raise questions: how come all these years kids have been managing to be successful in school and college with classes starting at 7:50am and 7:30am? Do the kids who have been getting into the Ivys, Stanford, Berkeley, MIT etc the last several decades not need sleep?

I am not against starting HS earlier, like around 8 or 8:30. 9:30 is too late. And this proposal to switch ES & HS times is very problematic. If we were advocating for all schools to start at 8:15 or 8:30am, perhaps by having parents (not FRL) pay for part of transportation costs, then I could get behind that plan. Otherwise, I believe this switching would create problems for more families than it would help. And I believe the families that will be negatively affected are the ones with fewer resources and connections.

Anonymous said…
Just out of curiosity, are the Nathan Hale kids, who start school at 8:30am, more successful academically than the Ballard, Roosevelt, Ingraham kids, who start at 7:50am?

Lynn said…
I think the question would be are they more successful academically, healthier, less depressed and less likely to be involved in car accidents than they would be if they started school at 7:50am. If the answer is no - maybe moving them to a 9am start would be better. How could anyone argue that moving them earlier would improve those measures?
Anonymous said…

I believe that I have not been clear. I am not trying to devalue your high school experience. It sounds like school sports & internships were very important to you. I can certainly understand that. My high school experience included sometimes working the graveyard shift. I loved it. I was working outside with adults that I respected & learned from. It was my choice. It was transformative for me.

My point is that it is not fair to generalize our personal experience to all teenagers. I do not think teenagers should work the graveyard shift or use their best sleeping hours half-asleep in class and their best learning hours at sports practice. I do believe that there are other choices in many instances. I am sure that changing start times will be a sacrifice for some teens. I know that current start times are a sacrifice for most teens. That includes low-income teens who often travel further on public transportation in the morning and have higher rates of late arrivals than kids who can depend on a ride to school.

By the way, rec league sports are in-city sports, no travel & cheaper than high school sports. You may be thinking of select sports. But there are select teams that run on sponsorships & offer scholarships too for kids who want to make that commitment a priority.

I actually don't need later sleep personally. I wake up at 4am every morning without an alarm. But I don't demand that everyone else keep the schedule that works best for me. Sleep research says that my sleep experience is atypical, so I'll just have to entertain myself until the rest of you get up :)

If you can reference some research that shows improving academics, health or safety with earlier teen start times I would certainly read it.

-need sleep

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