School start times would stay the same next year under a new plan from Seattle Public Schools, drafted after backlash from parents this week.
School start times would stay the same next school year under modifications released Friday to an earlier plan that sparked a livid backlash from Seattle parents last week.
The revision backs off a May 2 proposal to change Seattle Public Schools start times to save an estimated $1 million in transportation costs. That proposal, which would have meant much earlier bus-pickup times for some students, including some in elementary grades, prompted 2,400 people to sign an online petition.
Parents complained they hadn’t had time to weigh in on the changes and cited a range of other concerns, from student safety to sleep deprivation and the hardship for families having to arrange their schedules around early trips to bus stops.
The May 2 plan lengthened ride times for some kids from 25 minutes to a maximum of 45 minutes, and would have separated schools into three “tiers” starting school at 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
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Along with the furor it generated, the proposal, according to the district’s assistant superintendent for operations, Pegi McEvoy, turned out to have technical problems that made it unworkable.
The revised proposal, which will be introduced to the School Board on Wednesday, would disrupt fewer students and families, the district said. It would leave school start times as they are now but would still lengthen ride times to up to 45 minutes for some students.
School Board member Sharon Peaslee said she’s glad there’s another proposal to consider at the upcoming meeting.
“What we did was just sort of a last-ditch effort to save money wherever we could, but it’s turned out to be way too disruptive,” she said.
School-district staff came up with the May 2 proposal in response to ongoing budget problems, and an earlier revision of the transportation plan that was supposed to save $4 million but only saved $2 million.
The timing of the proposed changes didn’t sit well with many families.
“I think the timing is really suspect, to try to change transportation for next year in May when most families, teachers, everybody is sort of focused on getting to the end of the year and not really thinking about what it’s going to be like next year,” said Cynthia Jatul, a parent and Roosevelt High School biology teacher who launched the online petition.
She was already opposed to start times before the district proposed making them even earlier, she said.
“I’m very happy that they’ve backed off,” she said, “but I think that we now have momentum, and we have people who are paying attention to the issue.”
The plan floated Friday would save less money — between $250,000 and $500,000 — than the May 2 plan, according to a district estimate — and is temporary. The district will convene a task force to consider changes in 2013-2014.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com. On Twitter @EmilyHeffter.