Seattle School Board approves later school start times

SEATTLE -- The Seattle School Board made several key decisions Wednesday night regarding start times, transportation and Superintendent Larry Nyland.

Nyland's contract was extended to 2018 with a five-percent raise. Dr. Nyland announced he will donate his raise back to the district's general fund.

A much-anticipated decision was reached on school start times. The board voted six-to-one to approve pushing back the starting bell.

Under the recommended proposal, district high schools and most middle schools would start at 8:45 a.m., nearly an hour later than most of the schools start now.

"We will become the largest district in the country to make this switch, and hopefully we will set a trend," Board Director Sharon Peaslee said in a released statement. "This is a historic moment."

As part of the changes, most elementary schools in the district, defined as "tier one schools" would start at 7:55 a.m. However, the elementary schools in the "tier three" group would start even later, at 9:35 a.m., angering some parents in later starting elementary schools.

"Right now, it's awful ," said Laura Burke, a parent at View Ridge. "Our kids are awake for two hours, fresh, ready to go to school. And then they're tired for the last two hours they're at school. They're also getting out at almost four o'clock. In the winter, it's dark."

Despite unhappy elementary school parents in tier three, the local pediatric community is thrilled with the proposal. Sleep doctors who attended the board meeting said later start times will benefit the teen students' health and learning.

The proposal comes after years of studying the issue. The changes take effect in the 2016-2017 school year.

The board also considered the "student assignment transition" plan, affecting students on wait lists for schools outside of their assigned schools based on residence.

For further details on the board resolution, bell time feasibility study and list individual school bell times, go to Seattle School Broad Brief/Proposed Action Report (PDF)


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