Task force members will examine potential issues the changes could create around the district.
In November, the Seattle School Board voted to change school start times so that the city’s high schools and most middle schools start later, while most elementary schools and K-8 schools start earlier. While the move to an 8:45 a.m. start time for high schools was celebrated by most of the school board, as well as community members and sleep scientists, the changes could present significant challenges for many Seattle schools.
To help solve any problems, Seattle Public Schools is seeking members for its bell time implementation task force.
Task force members will look at potential issues surrounding the new start and end times that are scheduled to take effect next fall, and develop strategies for how to address them. The task force will advise the district, which is also seeking input from community-based organizations, district departments and programs, and city officials.
One potential issue involves the 13 elementary and K-8 schools that will start at 9:35 a.m. (rather than 7:55 a.m.) and end at 4:05 p.m. Parents of students in those schools have expressed concern that the late times will affect after-school activities and childcare options, and prevent students from being in class when they are most alert.
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The task force will consist of district staff and community members, including parents. Members will participate in five meetings over three months, with the first starting in late February. The district said the group will build on the work of an earlier task force that had about 40 members and, before the school board vote, reported on the impacts, risks and benefits of modifying school start times.
The deadline to apply is Friday. The application is available on the district website.
Seattle’s decision to move high school start times later than 8:30 a.m., as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is being watched by other districts across the state and nation. After the School Board’s vote in November, the district became one of the largest in the country to push back its start times for teenagers.
Other districts around the region have also modified their start times. Starting next fall, Mercer Island High School will start school at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesdays but keep its start time of 8 a.m. on the other four days, Mercer Island Superintendent Gary Plano announced last week.
A Senate bill known as the “Sandman Act,” which passed in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee earlier this month, calls for a study of what happens at schools with later start times. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, and Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, originally proposed that all public schools start one hour later starting next fall.