The Seattle School Board has approved new, later start times for its high schools and most of its middle schools, making Seattle one of the largest school districts in the nation where teenagers will start classes later than 8:30 a.m.
Seattle Public Schools is now one of the largest school districts in the nation where teenagers will start classes later than 8:30 a.m., as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The Seattle School Board voted 6-1 Wednesday to start the city’s public high schools, most middle schools and some K-8 schools at 8:45 a.m., beginning next school year. Most elementary schools, four K-8 schools and Denny International Middle School will start at 7:55 a.m., and the remaining elementary and K-8 schools will begin at 9:35 a.m.
School Board directors called the vote a historic moment that will lead a trend of schools pushing back its start times for high-school students.
“This is a great win for our students,” board Vice President Sharon Peaslee said. “We will unleash a torrent of public schools shifting to bell times that make sense for students.”
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The changes are a culmination of a yearslong campaign by parents, teachers and sleep scientists, who advocated for changing school start times to better match teens’ biological clocks. The Seattle teachers union supported the changes.
“The proposal to change bell times is the result of a research-based community initiative,” the union said. “It will improve learning, health and equity for thousands of Seattle students.”
School Board director Stephan Blanford, who voted against the changes, said he was concerned about the schools with the 9:35 a.m. start time and how the changed times seemed to benefit most, but not all, schools.
His concerns mirrored those of some parents in the 13 total elementary and K-8 schools, who said starting school at 9:35 a.m. would affect after-school activities and prevent young students from being in their optimal learning window.
“It’s not a win unless it’s the best start time for all students,” said Carin Towne, a parent at Laurelhurst Elementary.
Some schools may be able to move into a different start-time tier if the costs remain neutral, said Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent of operations. She encouraged parent groups to talk with their principals, who will receive guidelines about the changes from the district.
A district-appointed task force that studied the issue for seven months recommended an 8:50 a.m. start time for high schools, an 8 a.m. start time for most elementary schools and a 9:40 a.m. start for middle school and K-8 students.
Superintendent Larry Nyland modified those recommendations to avoid increasing the costs of busing.