Seattle schools start times impacting students in sports

When Seattle schools adjusted bell times, the intent was to help kids get more sleep, but for kids who play sports, the opposite is happening.

SEATTLE - Thousands of Seattle area parents and their children are paying the price for a change that was supposed to help them.

When Seattle schools adjusted bell times, the intent was to help kids get more sleep. But for kids who play sports, the opposite is happening.

Eight-year-old Jack Sciafani knows soccer. And with soccer, like any sport, things don’t always go as planned. But Jack gets it.

“I’ve been playing soccer since I was three!” he said.

But this school year is different. A change in school bell times caused a ripple effect most people didn't expect. 

“I'm kind of really tired because school starts at 7 something in the morning,” said Jack.

“It's hard. It used to be I didn't have to set an alarm. My kid would wake up and we've have plenty of time,” said Jack’s dad.

Across the field, through a sea of seemingly boundless energy, one mom struggles to keep her eyes open.

Jackie Mahlen's 10-year-old daughter Natalie, practices at Ingraham High School until 8:30 p.m.

“We don't get home until 9:30 p.m. and bedtime at our house is 8 pm. It's really affecting all of us. I have to bring her little sisters also,” said Mahlen.

“It's been very hard since she's tired. She has to take me to practice every day instead of two days. Sometimes she sleeps in the car,” said Natalie.

Jim McAlister is the coaching director for Seattle United Soccer Club.
It's unintended consequences, with schools going later, kids get out later, after school activities, football practice, so it's really affected the field usage that we have in Seattle,” said McAlister.

When Seattle Public Schools changed its bell times, it was like the straw that broke a camel's back when it comes to field space. In addition to high school fields opening up later, Seattle Parks pushed the availability of their fields back 30 minutes.

And later practice means darker ones, so fields that don't have lights are no longer usable.

At Jane Adams Middle School, the shortage means some high schoolers practice until 10 p.m.

“Seattle's a world class city. They need all sorts of amenities - great schools, theaters - but it also needs a place for its kids to play,” said one parent.

As a mom to twin girls who has found herself expecting another child in a few months, Jackie Mahlen is becoming accustomed to navigating the bumps in life. It doesn't make it easier, though.

“Knowing I have to get up earlier than everybody, I still have to make lunches for tomorrow. Breakfast, so I'm tired,” said Mahlen.

Is all this all worth it? The change in school and practice times has forced many parents to weigh that question now, more than ever.

“We’re trying to figure out how to juggle.”

When asked why he liked soccer, young Jack’s answer made a convincing case of why it just might be.

“I like how it’s a team effort. You’re more working together.”

Copyright 2016 KING


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