Vote by city council could shift Seattle schools' start times again

SEATTLE — A vote by the Seattle City Council could come Monday that could shift start times for public school students again.

Last year, the school board voted for three start times for students. Parents complained.

Now, the teachers union and Seattle Public Schools agreed to add 20 minutes of core instructional time to the school day starting in the 2017-18 school year.

The new plan would generally see schools start 10 minutes earlier and get out 10 minutes later than this year’s times, if the district continues to have three different school start times.

The school board also approved an early dismissal for all K-12 students every Wednesday for teacher collaboration and planning. All students will be released 75 minutes early once a week.

But the schedule for the 2017-2018 school year could still be changed.

Earlier this year, after many parents complained that they would prefer two start times instead of the current three, the district said the change could cost up to $3.8 million, money it doesn’t have.

That’s when Mayor Ed Murray proposed one-time, $2.3 million funding to help make the change.

The money would allow the district to have enough buses to transport students across the district with just two start times – 8 a.m. for elementary and middle school students and 9 a.m. for high school students.

Last year, Seattle Public Schools pushed high school start times later for older students so they could sleep more, citing research that shows well-rested students will do better in class.

But parents of younger children say it's not fair that their children had to start earlier and often have to get on the bus before the sun comes up.

The Seattle City Council will take up the issue of Murray’s one-time funding proposal during Monday’s meeting at 2 p.m.

The following is from the Seattle Schools website:     

School Schedule Recommendations for 2017-18

To improve K-12 students’ academic access and achievement, the Seattle Education Association (SEA) and Seattle Public Schools (SPS) agreed to add 20 minutes of core instructional time to the school day starting in the 2017-18 school year. This action also brings our instructional hours into alignment with other districts in the region.

In addition, SEA and SPS agreed to add teacher collaboration time into the work day to support common planning time and improved student outcomes.

Thank you to the 11,000 plus family members, teachers, principals and community partners who responded to last month’s survey on how to add 20 minutes to the instructional day and provided guidance on when to implement the one hour of teacher collaboration time per week.

Your input and feedback is valued.

Recommendations informed by stakeholders and community engagement:

In 2017-18, all K-12 students will be dismissed one hour early in support of teacher collaboration. Every stakeholder group (families, partners, teachers and principals) preferred the one-hour a week early release over late arrival.

The early release once a week will be on Wednesdays. Wednesday was the day preferred by principals and school staff. While Fridays were preferred by the majority of families and partners, mid-week collaboration better supports the SEA/SPS partnership goals.

The addition of twenty minutes will be split between the morning and afternoon. Current Tier 1 families (early start schools) wanted to add the 20 minutes at the end of the day. Current Tier 2 and 3 families (late start schools) want to add the time to the beginning of the day. Splitting the difference (10/10) was the second preferred choice by all stakeholders (families, staff, and partners), so 10 minutes will be added to the morning schedule and 10 minutes to the afternoon schedule.

Timeline for Finalization of the 2017-18 School Schedules:

As mentioned, the staff recommendation is to split the additional 20 minutes, 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the afternoon, if the district continues to have three different school start times.

The outstanding consideration is if we can afford to move to a two tier bus system (two start times). We know this is preferred by some families, especially those currently in Tier 3, the schools with the latest start time.

We estimate this change could cost up to $3.8 million, and while these costs may be reduced through different transportation scenarios and maybe a one-time cost depending on state funding, it will add to the $71 million budget shortfall we are facing because of the legislature’s failure to fully fund public education.

You can find more information on 2017-18 budget development on our Budget Office webpage.

Decisions regarding the number of start times (three versus two) and implementation of the associated transportation standards will be influenced by the School Board’s budgeting process. The 2017-18 bell schedules will be finalized and communicated in January.

To provide additional feedback to staff and the Seattle School Board please email arrivaltimes@seattleschools.org.