Seattle parents prepare for new bell times for first day of school

SEATTLE -- It was a dry run on Tuesday, a day before the first day of school in Seattle.

“Riding my bike to school,” Haddie Stegman said.

Haddie is excited to explore Arbor Heights Elementary, which is opening up for the first day of school in a brand new building.

“It’s big, it’s open, the windows, lot of views,” Haddie’s dad, David Stegman, said.

Arbor Heights Elementary students will have more space this year but also a new schedule.

“We start earlier, we get out earlier,” parent Lisa Smith said.

Kids will have to show up 45 minutes earlier than last year to start classes at 7:55 a.m. at Arbor Heights -- and the feelings are mixed.

“It’s a big shift. I am not an early morning person myself so I think it will be a learning curve for the first few weeks,” Smith said.

“The new bell times will be a little bit better for her,” Stegman said.

Although most elementary schools now have earlier bell times, some schools don’t, like Louisa Boren STEM K-8. Parent Shawna Murphy says the new schedules are confusing.

    Murphy’s two kids at Louisa Boren will start at 9:35 a.m. this year, 5 minutes earlier than last year. The dismissal time has been extended to 4:05 p.m., which is 30 minutes later than last year.

    “It’s all over the place, which means kids who are on the same sport teams or have been for years, our kids are getting out so late they won’t be able to participate,” Murphy said.

    The district says the earlier school times for most of the elementary school children are to accommodate later bell times for middle and high school students.

    “It helps high school students sleep, be rested and not have to start the wee hours of the morning,” Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland said.

    With the exception of high schools, the start times vary for many other schools mainly due to logistics. With many schools sharing buses, the district had to vary start times.

    “We are working hard, changing the transportation routes,  making sure we are getting all the kids to school at the right time, right place,” Nyland said.

    All high schools start at 8:45 a.m. That is about an hour later than most high schools compared to last year. Some parents of high schoolers say they like the later start times while others say they are concerned about after-school activities lasting later into the night.