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Times are changing

School start times shift to 8:45 a.m.

Tess Harstrick and Meagen Tajalle
Originally published December 17, 2015


All schools in the district will have different arrival and departure times for the 2016-17 school year, with most elementary schools starting earlier.

The decision comes after a resolution was passed in 2014 that instructed the superintendent to analyze the impacts of later start times for middle and high school aged students. Discussions between the school board and superintendents about the potential benefits of this change have been ongoing since 2008.

“I think it’s really nice because as teenagers we struggle to get a lot of sleep and I think it’s important that we start later so that we can finish our homework at night and have time to sleep in the morning.”

-Sophie Zucker, 10

Superintendent Larry Nyland analyzed the logistical impacts of shifting start times, but some other factors considered were adolescent sleeping patterns, academic achievement in relation to these sleep patterns and start times and after-school activities, among other things. Ultimately it was decided to delay start times in order to maximize student health and achievement.

The district has received pressure from certain groups about start times, such as the Seattle School Nurses Association and the Seattle Council PTSA, who all supported later start times for adolescents. They also received a petition with 3,550 signatures on it, as well as thousands of emails.

Next year, sleep schedules, academic performance, extracurriculars and work schedules will be greatly impacted as a result of the change. Sports schedules in particular will be heavily affected, as multiple teams need to share the sports field, which currently has no lights. Teams will need lights because practices will be later.

Much of the logistics involved in the delayed start time falls on Carrie Burr, Athletic Director. As this process has just begun, very little in terms of how it will work out is known.  “I don’t have real answers [to how it will work],” Burr said. “I don’t know when we will.”

Some of the implications involved in the changed start time can be assumed, however.

It’s going to be good for everyone who starts really early like jazz band and vocal jazz, and even though it goes a little bit later it’s okay actually. In my opinion I like it.”

-Justus Brown, 10

As of now, with a 2:20 p.m. dismissal time, teams often have to miss their sixth period, or part of it to get to an away game on time. With a 3:15 p.m. dismissal time, however, it’s very possible that teams will miss their fifth and sixth, possibly fourth as well, depending on how far they have to travel for a game.

“I sure hope that it doesn’t cut down on our participation numbers,” Burr said. As of now, about 700 students are signed up for a school sport. “Our whole mission statement here is get involved . . . athletics is a big part of that.”

The decision to change school start times was primarily motivated by how it would affect the academic performance of students.

However, language arts teacher Kristen Storey seems doubtful as to how students actually feel regarding start times. “I think those who are athletes are concerned, because their days are already very long. And others are excited because they figure they get more sleep,” Storey said. She remarked that teachers seem to generally feel “skeptical.”

Studies have found that academic performance improves with more sleep. A University of Minnesota study found that student test scores in science, math, social studies and english improved with a later start time. The study also found that tardiness, absences, substance abuse and depression declined.

The study involved around 9,000 students at eight different high schools in three different states, taking place over three years. At one high school, Jackson Hole High School in Wyoming, car crashes decreased by 70 percent.

“I usually start working at four, so I guess I’ll have to go straight from school to work . . . I liked getting out early.”

-Hayden Cottam, 11

Whether or not students will be able to accept a supposed change for the better that they don’t agree with remains to be seen. While many students understand that more sleep at night will help them academically, they would still rather have more time in the afternoon.

It is an option for students to wake up earlier to finish homework they may not have been able to finish the night before, but most teenagers know how hard it can be to wake up early and finish uncompleted homework. “I just hope that the four year investigation at the district proved that it definitely will make a big difference, because it’s going to make a big impact for sure,” Storey said.

Both Burr and Storey remain hopeful that the new school start times will work out for the best, and certainly aim for it.

“Every day after school I go straight to baseball and I practice until dinner time, so that’s 50 minutes less of baseball. I’m still going to have less time to do homework, less time to eat, less time to relax.”

-Jay Dunbar, 9

“Homework is still going to be homework and classes are still going to be rigorous,” Burr said. “I feel like we’re at the very beginning of finding a solution. I’d hate to see [extracurricular participation] go away. And I’d like to believe in my heart of hearts that it won’t.”

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