After studying the effects of sleep deprivation and culling through the costs of taking kids to school, a committee looking at school start...

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After studying the effects of sleep deprivation and culling through the costs of taking kids to school, a committee looking at school start times in the Issaquah School District has come to this conclusion:

Secondary schools should start later.

“Their brains are not awake at 7:25 in the morning,” said parent Randy Nevin, a member of the district’s Bell Times Study Committee. “They’re just not there.”

The committee is suggesting to schools Superintendent Janet Barry that secondary schools start 15 minutes later, at 7:40, a move that would cost the district about $240,000. Barry will decide later this spring whether to make that change, which would require changing bus schedules and would push the start times of some elementaries later as well.

The money — which would pay for additional bus drivers — would likely come from either the district’s reserves, or from cutting another program.

It is a tough decision to make, said Craig Christensen, a committee member who also is executive director of operations for the district. Because the state does not provide enough transportation money, he said, districts are forced to choose the needs of one group of students over another.

Report on start times

The committee’s final report will be presented to the PTSA on Feb. 10 and to the District Advisory Team on Feb. 15.

“What do you give up?” Christensen asked.

For more information on the start-times issue, go to

In recent years, school districts from Seattle to Mercer Island have struggled with the question of when school should start. Nathan Hale High School in Seattle pushed its start time to an hour later, to 8:45 a.m. Mercer Island High School bumped its start time by 40 minutes, to 8 a.m.

Some research shows a connection between later school-start times and improved student achievement and attendance. But others say the connection is flimsy. It’s a complicated debate, touching on everything from sports schedules to student test scores, from family routines to budget constraints.

In Issaquah, the debate began about two years ago, when the district decided to start secondary schools 14 minutes earlier. That move saved the district $400,000 during a budget crunch. But it raised concerns among parents, who argued their children would suffer from lack of sleep.

In the wake of the controversy, the district pulled together the 11-member committee, comprising students, parents and administrators. The committee spent a year and a half reviewing research, listening to residents and narrowing down 18 possible options.

In a recent memo to the superintendent, the committee noted its plan would cost significantly less than other options it studied. And it argued that teens, under so much pressure to perform, need those extra 15 minutes of sleep.

“The stakes are high,” said Nevin, pointing to new state and federal mandates. “Seems like we’re handicapping our children.”

Christensen acknowledged the 15-minute change is small, compared to action taken by some other schools that have grappled with the issue.

“To be perfectly honest, I think there’s a better option,” said Christensen, who would rather see secondary schools open at 8:30 or 9 a.m. “But we can’t afford it.”

Cara Solomon: 206-464-2024 or