The school day is about to get longer for students in Seattle Public Schools. That's just one of several schedule changes the school board approved on Wednesday evening.
Schools across the district will start ten minutes earlier and end ten minutes later, starting next fall. The change brings Seattle Public School's instructional hours into alignment with other districts in the region.
While 20 minutes might not sound like a lot, the change comes on the heels of earlier start times that caused huge controversy in the 2016-2017 school year. Last year's changes slid start times later for high schoolers and brought younger kids in earlier.
"We tell our children they need to come to school ready to learn, but then we schedule school for times when they're biologically not ready. We've got to do better," said parent Justin Adam Kalm.
He was one of several parents that voiced their concerns to school board members on Wednesday.
"With the additional extended day next year, it's just going to be even earlier. We could have kids getting on buses as early as 6:30 a.m. or 6:45 a.m. in the morning. Little elementary kids," said parent Eliza Rankin.
The board also approved an early dismissal every single Wednesday, to allow for teacher planning, collaboration, and professional development. That change means that students across the district will be released 75 minutes early on Wednesdays.
Seattle Public Schools says that more than 11,000 family members, teachers, principals, and community partners participated in a survey on how best to add 20 minutes to the instructional day and when to implement the one hour of teacher collaboration time per week.
But it's important to note there are still a lot of moving parts when it comes to the final schedule for the 2017-2018 school year.
The district got feedback from a lot of families who say they would prefer to move to a two-tier bus system with two school start times instead of the current three-tier bus system with three different school start times.
Most families in favor of that change have kids in Tier 3, which means a 9:35 a.m. start time.
Earlier in the year, district leaders said they were unable to move to a two-tier schedule due to a funding shortfall.
Then in April, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proposed $2.3 million in startup funding to help Seattle Public Schools make the change.
Murray said city staff concluded that the health and academic welfare of students would be greatly increased by supporting the change of Seattle Public School start times from the current three-tier system to a two-tier system.
The one-time investment must be approved by the Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee as well as Seattle City Council.
Council is set to take up the issue on Monday, June 12. The proposal needs seven votes to pass, and at least two council members have expressed concerns about it.
"$2.3 million is a drop in the bucket for the city," Rankin told school board members. "I'm grateful the city is considering funding the switch to a two-tier system. I really hope they do. If they don't, the combination of the extra 20 minutes, the early release day, and the extreme early start times is going to be just really, really hard for families next year."
Rankin will be closely watching next week's city council vote, and so will school district leaders.
Superintendent Larry Nyland has previously said that the $2.3 million from the city would allow Seattle Public Schools to eliminate third tier bussing. That would mean that in the 2017-2018 school year, schools would start at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
But if the change is going to happen, it has to happen quickly. Seattle Public Schools has said its committed to notifying families and providers about the final 2017-2018 schedule by June 16.
KING 5's Brian Price contributed to this report.
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