Seattle Public Schools is looking for volunteers to lead talks about changing the time that school starts each day.
Do you want to lead a discussion in your neighborhood about school start times?
The Seattle school district would like to help you do so. This month, the district is training volunteers to organize community meetings in their neighborhoods, where parents and others can learn about what difference start times make, talk about possible changes to Seattle school schedules and contribute to a district survey.
The district hopes these informal get-togethers will reach families who can’t or don’t want to make the trip to district headquarters for a more formal town hall.
“The hope is to use this program consistently in the future for community outreach,” said Sam Markert, a senior project manager at the district who works with the program, called Neighbor to Neighbor. “You won’t have somebody from the district all the time in the room.”
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The meetings are the latest part of a bigger bell time study in Seattle, where district leaders have been weighing whether to start middle and high school later in the day to accommodate kids’ sleep needs.
Scientists agree that teens tend to be biological night owls, and are more alert later in the day. The research suggests that delayed school start times can improve teens’ health, mood, attendance and — in some cases — learning. Middle and high schools in Seattle today start as early as 7:50 a.m., whereas elementary schools start between 8:40 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
But changing start times sets up a daunting logistical puzzle. Other districts that have tried to delay start times ran into opposition from coaches who didn’t want late dismissals cutting into practice time, community groups that don’t want to wait longer for students to clear gyms and fields, and before- and after-school programs that don’t want to change their schedules. Even districts considering swapping elementary and high school start times ran into problems with parents who didn’t want little kids waiting for the bus in the dark.
In Seattle, the district staff plans to compile results from the community meetings and a bell times task force, and will make a recommendation to the School Board by November, Markert said.
To become a bell-time talk facilitator, email firstname.lastname@example.org or attend one of two facilitator trainings next week. They are scheduled from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on March 23 in the library at South Shore K-8 at 4800 S. Henderson St., or from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on March 25 in the library at Bailey Gatzert Elementary at 1301 E. Yesler Way.
Seattle Public Schools is asking parents to weigh in on three recommendations for changing school start times. Share your thoughts on these proposals in the poll below and in the comments section.