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Seattle Schools proposed earlier start time would save the district thousands in transportation costs. Photo by Larry Darling.

Seattle Schools proposed earlier start time would save the district thousands in transportation costs. Photo by Larry Darling.


Parents Oppose New School Start Times

Ann Dornfeld

Many parents are protesting a new Seattle Public Schools transportation proposal that would change school start times and make schools start earlier. They've flooded the district with emails and collected 2,000 signatures on an online petition. KUOW's Ann Dornfeld reports.


Middle and high schools in Seattle start as early as 7:40. But teenagers are famous for staying up late, then having a hard time getting up for school in the morning. And Dr. Maida Chen says there's not much teens can do about that.

Chen: "They biologically are programmed to wake up later. They go through something called delayed sleep phase syndrome, which is a shifting of their body clock backward so they prefer to go to sleep much later and prefer to get up much later."

Chen is director of the Pediatric Sleep Center at Seattle Children's Hospital. She says teenagers aren't usually ready to wake up until 8:00 a.m., and their brains don't get in gear until about 9:00. Under a new school district proposal, they could have to get to school at 7:10 a.m. So could some elementary students.

A lot of parents in the district object to the plan and the lack of community engagement. Parent Janis White spoke at the School Board meeting last week, where the proposal was announced.

Janis White: "Most parents in the district have no idea you're considering this drastic change and they have had no opportunity to voice their concerns."

At the district, Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Duggan Harman acknowledges the proposal was drawn up without community input. He says there wasn't time because the School Board had given the district a tight timeline to cut $1 million from the transportation budget. Harman says the district found that part of the problem was its past goal to limit bus rides to 25 minutes.

Duggan Harman: "In order to get 25–minute ride times, you actually have to limit the number of stops that buses can make, and so it results in buses that aren't full."

Harman says by making bus rides as long as 45 minutes, the district can pull 22 buses off the road and save that million dollars.

Parents argue that the combination of earlier start times and longer bus rides could mean some kids would need to be on the bus before 6:30 a.m.

The School Board asked the district to come up with a final proposal with later start times before the board votes next week.

I'm Ann Dornfeld, KUOW News.

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