Seattle superintendent proposes new school start times

SEATTLE -- Parents are continuing to raise concerns about the plan to change start times at Seattle Public Schools next year.

Wednesday night, the superintendent introduced his recommendations to the school board. He says the district doesn’t want to increase transportation costs. So it’s not as simple as moving elementary school start times up and high school times back.

Taeya Lauer says it’s difficult to get her 13-year-old to school at 7:50 each morning.

“I thought maybe I needed to be a tougher parent. Maybe I just need to get him to bed earlier and get him up earlier. So we tried that. He went to bed earlier and he tossed and turned,” she said.

A lot of parents say their teens don’t get enough rest, and have trouble concentrating in their early classes. That’s why doctors with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend later start times for middle and high school students.

“The research is pretty clear, you’ll get better results starting later,” says psychologist and author Gregory Jantz.

Superintendent Larry Nyland agrees. That’s why he’s proposing new start times for the next school year. He wants most elementary schools to move up their bell time to 8 a.m. That would allow all high schools and most middle schools to push back their start time to 8:50 a.m.

But under his plan, 13 schools would have a 9:40 a.m. start time. The district says that’s because they don’t have the money to provide transportation for all schools to start at 8 or 8:50. Some parents say that shouldn’t be the issue.

“They shouldn’t look at the cost at this point,” said Robin Graham. “There’s a solution on the table that makes sense, and we should just do it right the first time. Pay the money, get a two-tier system, and make it happen.”

Graham will have three students at K-8 STEM @ Boren next year. She doesn’t want them getting out of school at 4:20 p.m., because it will be dark in the winter.

“I’m also really concerned that there won’t be any time for play time, for family dinners. There’s not time for any downtime for kids.”

Lauer agrees. Her younger child is in elementary school, and she says she can’t go into work until both kids get to school.

“I would love for the district to find a way to eliminate the three-tier system and move to a two-tier system, so no one has to be in tier three.”

Parents can continue to weigh in on this issue by email through Nov. 2.

The board is expected to vote on the proposal at its meeting Nov. 4.