The discussions about whether high schools — and middle schools — should start later is happening in at least four districts in the Puget Sound area.

Share story

As the Seattle School Board prepares to vote next week on whether to change school start times, some other area districts have already done so, or are considering similar adjustments — all in the name of helping teenagers get more sleep.  

The Northshore School District, for example, this year is experimenting with a seven-period day, giving high school students the option of attending from first period through sixth period, or second through seventh. Second period starts at 8:20 a.m., one hour after the first period bell rings.

Earlier this month, the Bellevue School Board unanimously voted to move high-school start times later than 7:30 a.m., the current start time, with a goal of eventually having schools start at 8:30 a.m. District staff members are now working on the logistics, according to district spokeswoman Kathy Smith.

At the Oct. 6 board meeting, board members agreed that the start time should be delayed to benefit students, but said they didn’t want to commit to 8:30 a.m. until they approve a plan for how to do it. The change wouldn’t take effect until next school year at the earliest.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

In a survey presented to the Bellevue board, 74 percent of 10,137 students, staff and parents said they strongly or somewhat supported changing high school school start times to 8:30 a.m., which means school would end at 3:30 p.m. Another 20 percent said they strongly or somewhat opposed the change.

The opponents’ most significant concern was interference with after-school activities or sports. Others worried about the possible need for more bus routes and potential scheduling conflicts for music teachers.

Potential scheduling problems for music programs has also been an issue in the Mercer Island School District. That district has considered moving the high school start time to 8:40 a.m., though music instructors said at a recent school board meeting that the change would affect instructional time and force students to choose between music and sports.

Mercer Island officials plan to wait and see what happens with other districts before they make any changes, district spokeswoman Mary Grady said. The options under consideration include having Wednesday as a designated late-start day and adding other days with later starts in the future. Mercer Island High now starts at 8 a.m.

In Northshore, the district is using a regional bus shuttle for students who want the second-to-seventh period option.  So far, a few dozen students are using it, said district spokeswoman Leanna Albrecht.

The Northshore School Board also has formed a task force to research and develop a recommendation for starting the high school day no earlier than 8 a.m., by the 2017-18 school year.

The proposal that will go to the Seattle School Board next week has high schools and most middle schools starting at 8:50 a.m., and most elementary schools at 8 a.m. Most K-8s would start at 8 a.m. or 8:50 a.m., and 13 schools — three K-8 and 10 elementary schools — would start at 9:40 a.m.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that high schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Want to receive Education Lab’s daily reports by email?  Sign up for the Education Lab newsletter.