The Issaquah School District has been discussing ways to allow middle- and high-school students to start later, but its superintendent said that the community could not come to a consensus about whether that was a good idea.
The Issaquah School District won’t flip school start times in September so that middle and high schools start later and elementary schools start earlier.
The Issaquah Press reported that Superintendent Ron Thiele made the announcement Monday, while also saying that he plans to keep working on the issue. In an open letter, he said that the community was unable to reach consensus on a proposal to start secondary schools at 9 a.m. and elementary schools at 8 a.m.
Issaquah has been one of several Seattle-area school districts considering start-time changes given the growing amount of research showing adolescents need more sleep and don’t function well early in the morning. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended secondary schools start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
While many in Issaquah favored later start times for adolescents, Thiele said in his letter, many thought ending school at 4 p.m. would be too late, affecting students’ ability to care for younger siblings, work or participate in after-school activities. And many parents of elementary students, he said, didn’t like the idea of their children starting so much earlier than they do now.
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But Thiele is not giving up, saying he wants to find a way to start secondary schools later, while preserving after-school activities and with “less impact to the elementary schedule.”
That was welcome news for Dea Barnett, a child and adolescent psychiatrist who leads the Issaquah chapter of Start School Later, a national nonprofit advocating for school schedules that accommodate adolescent sleep patterns.
“The fact that [Thiele] remains open to looking at the issue and trying to figure out what might work is pretty heartening,” Barnett said.
She hopes the extra time will lead to deeper discussions with parents and community members about the proposed changes, though she would like the district to provide more detailed information about transportation and student activities.
In 2003, the district launched a two-year study that looked into busing logistics, schedule conflicts and other complexities of changing the school day, but that effort ended with a recommendation to leave the schedule alone.
Barnett says there is more support this time around, fueled by a growing body of research about the potential health, safety and academic benefits of later start times for adolescents.
“This is quite different,” Barnett said. “The movement has really caught fire nationally.”
The Seattle School Board voted in November to overhaul the district’s school start times, making Seattle one of the largest school districts in the nation to do so. Starting this fall, most Seattle secondary students will start school at 8:45 a.m., and most elementary students at 7:55 a.m.
The Bellevue School District is moving its high-school start times later, too.
Last month, the Mercer Island School District announced that starting next fall, its high school will start at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesdays, but begin at 8 a.m. the rest of the school week.
The Northshore and Lake Washington districts are also working toward changing high-school schedules.
Seattle Times Education Editor Linda Shaw contributed to this report.
This story, originally posted Wednesday morning, has been corrected. Some parents of elementary-school students don’t like the idea of their children starting school later than they do now. The original post mistakenly said they didn’t like an earlier start.