Seattle Public School Start Times -- Changing Again?!

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New update: Ok, so the school board scrapped the three tier plan that this post describes once they actually put it out where the public could comment on it and the public responded with a rousing NO WAY!

For all of you who commented on the fact that you were not keen on some school start times going as early as 7:30 or as late as 9:30, congratulations! Your voices have been heard and the school board sent the three-tier plan to the circular file. If you’re not familiar with the story read on below. You can read the district’s statement on the new proposal here. You can see the new proposal itself in all its PDF glory here. There is still some uncertainty about start times for some schools but the differences are significantly smaller than they were in the original proposal.

The next School Board meeting is on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 pm at the District offices at the John Stanford Center.  If you are interested in seeing what happens in person come on down! Public testimony is at the beginning of the meeting and you have to sign up in advance to get a turn to speak. Here is a link to the procedure to sign up for public testimony.

On May 16 the school board is expected to vote on new transportation standards introducing a three-tier system that would radically change school start times throughout the district.

This might be considered business as usual if it weren’t for a number of issues that have the parent community up in arms. You may remember that just last year there were a number of transportation changes that resulted in some schools having to change their start times. The changes were meant to save money but that’s obviously not the case because the district is claiming these new changes are necessary due to transportation expenditures, which are expected to be approximately $2 million over budget this year.

Some of the issues with the way this new transportation plan are being handled include the fact that there was little to no public outreach for input into the plan before it was sent to the school board. In addition the changes are being proposed after open enrollment has closed. This is in direct violation of the school district’s own policy. In fact on page 5 of the Proposed Transportation Standards document it says, “Developing bus arrival/departure times and school start/end times must be coordinated, and approval of each must be completed prior to the start of the Open Enrollment process.”

For those of you keeping score, Open Enrollment ended on March 9. This means that families who committed to a school expecting a certain start time may now have to deal with a new arrival time as early as 7:10 a.m. or as late as 9:20 a.m. This could obviously have a negative impact on many families not to mention the schedule and budget impacts to school district staff who have child-care issues of their own.

The proposed plan is a three tier bus routing system that looks like this:

Seattle Public School TiersArrival TimesDeparture Times
First Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options7:10 a.m.2:05 p.m.
Second Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options8:05 a.m.3 p.m.
Second Tier – Elementary8:25 a.m.3 p.m.
Third Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options9 a.m.3:55 p.m.
Third Tier – Elementary9:20 a.m.3:55 p.m.
Morning Head Start8:05 a.m.11:45 a.m.
Afternoon Head Start12:55 p.m.4:30 p.m.

No schools have been assigned to these tiers yet but K8 and Option schools assigned to the First Tier could have elementary students waiting in the dark as early as 6:00am for a bus.

The School Board reviewed the plan with the first public comment on May 2. One of the parents from our school attended and had these observations:

There were numerous comments that if we don’t adopt this plan next year we will have to RIF (fire) more teachers. This seemed to be the only alternative being presented. Surely there must be other options. Perhaps doing away with the MAP test, which it can be argued has not been providing the promised return on investment.

The lack of public input has prevented the offering of other creative solutions from the community. There was concern at the meeting about adding “hub” stops on more bus routes – as a different way to cut transportation costs. Objections were raised over discipline concerns and concern that property owners at the hub bus stops would object. At our school all the buses this year are using hub bus stops.  We have not heard of any complaints from property owners, we have not had discipline problems at our hub bus stops, and our school community has embraced the hub system. Why is this, or other solutions from the community, not being considered?

If you would like to learn more about this here are some helpful links:

Seattle School Board. Look at their upcoming agenda and review meeting notes.

Revised 2012-2013 Transportation Service Standards.

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jak_headshot_da_100John Kubalak is a writer, teacher, volunteer coordinator, raconteur, and scalawag. He does not publish science fiction under the pseudonym Jonathan Black but he does publish a monograph on fatherhood, The Eclectic Dad. He has a son, a daughter, a beautiful wife (and a little dog too!) who are adorable, maddening, zany, and brilliant all at the same time.

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