School board delays later start times

by: Alison Grande Updated:

Parents, students and teachers rallied in support of a later start time for high school students.
Parents, students and teachers rallied in support of a later start time for high school students.
SEATTLE —

Parents, students and teachers gathered outside the Seattle School Board meeting Wednesday night with one goal-- later school start times for teenagers. 

They held signs and chanted, “What do we want? Later start times for teens. When? 2015?"             

The group, Start School Later Seattle, wants the school board to have high school start later around 8:30 a.m., elementary schools would start earlier. 

"It just seems like a 'no-brainer'," said parent Ann Weber. Her son is a sophomore at Ingram.               

"I find it almost impossible to focus during the first few periods of the day,” said Kyle Weber. 

He thinks he'd get more sleep if school started later, and better grades.             

Sleep experts from Seattle Children's Hospital support the later start times.

"We are raising a generation of sleep-deprived teenagers," said Dr. Maeda Chen of Seattle Children's Sleep Disorders Program.

She believes later start times will mean, "Less depression, better academic performance, better attendance, fewer car accidents. This is a public safety issue," added Chen.              

Supporters say earlier start times for elementary school students make sense because they wake up earlier.

Fifth grader Jacob Ferguson said he'd like to start earlier. "I'm already up, like 7:30. If we went to school earlier we'd get home earlier and we'd have a lot more time," said Ferguson.              

Tuesday night, the Seattle School Board voted on a resolution that would postpone the process. The research on changing start times wouldn't start until fall 2015, and if they decide to move forward with the plan it wouldn't start until the 2016-2017 school year.              

That had parents frustrated." I think it's outrageous. The district can really move on things when they want to,” said Robin Ferguson who has a child in Middle school, the other in elementary school.            

The vote to delay discussing start times was unanimous.

Seattle School Board member Sue Peters expressed her disappointment, "I'm disappointed it can't be done sooner. Staff says they have too much going on. Staff needs the next 30 months to implement this change and we can't expect the impossible."               

In 2015 the School District will do research and conduct meetings and seek input from the community. Changing the start times could affect the ability for older siblings to care for younger siblings after school. It could impact childcare needs for working parents.

It will affect school sports and after school employment. The district already explained it thinks it could accommodate transporting the students.       

Supporters of later start times started a petition online. Wednesday night it had more than 3,800 signatures.