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Originally published March 19, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 19, 2009 at 1:00 AM

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Seattle School Board votes to change school start times

In September, start times at most Seattle schools will change. A cost-cutting plan approved Wednesday night by the Seattle School Board means most schools will start roughly 15-30 minutes later, although some will start earlier, too.

Seattle Times education reporter

In September, start times at most Seattle schools will change. A cost-cutting plan approved Wednesday night by the Seattle School Board means most schools will start roughly 15-30 minutes later, although some will start earlier, too.

For elementary schools, yellow buses will deliver students in time for a 9:30 a.m. start, though schools have flexibility to begin 10 minutes earlier or later.

For middle and high schools, students who take the bus will arrive in time for an 8:15 a.m. start. Those schools have less flexibility, district officials said, but could start as early as 8:05 a.m. if they wanted.

The start times for schools that enroll students from kindergarten through eighth grade will change most. Eight of them will start about 8:15 a.m. next fall, about an hour earlier than now. The other two — TOPS and Salmon Bay — will be on the 9:30 a.m. schedule because they have longer bus routes than the other K-8 schools.

The changes, the district says, will save $2.2 million in transportation costs, reduce bus-driver turnover and shorten many bus routes.

Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson in February discussed starting schools a little earlier — roughly 9:15 a.m. for elementary schools, and 8 a.m. for middle schools, high schools, and K-8s.

But some parents and school-board members pushed for later starts, primarily to make sure K-8 students aren't standing at bus stops in the dark during winter.

The length of the school day stays the same.

District officials said the change means the district will need 49 fewer buses, which prompted some board members to say the benefits will be environmental as well as financial.

Goodloe-Johnson said the adjustments reflected feedback from families, although she acknowledged the district didn't do a good job soliciting it.

The board announced Wednesday morning that it would vote on the proposal at Wednesday night's meeting — three weeks sooner than planned.

Board members said they wanted to make the decision before March 31, the deadline for submitting applications to enroll in Seattle schools or requesting a school transfer. Families may enroll after that, too, but they must act by the deadline to get the greatest choice of schools.


The board decided to allow schools to seek waivers from the set start times if they can show it won't cost the district money and won't adversely affect any group of students, including students with disabilities.

Seattle schools now start at many different times. Many high schools begin at 7:45 a.m., for example, though some moved start times to 8:15 or 8:30 a.m. after the district, in another cost-cutting move, assigned students to take city buses rather than school buses. Elementary schools also have about a half dozen different start times — ranging from 8:50 to 9:20 a.m.

District officials say the variety of start times causes problems. Some bus rides are longer than they might otherwise be, said transportation manager Tom Bishop. And many school-bus drivers quit when they can only drive one route each morning and afternoon, rather than two each way, he said.

Some routes have had up to 17 different drivers this school year, he said.

District officials plan to form a transportation task force to look at a number of issues, including possibly adjusting start times again in the future.

But that group, which will include parents, won't be able to make any recommendations in time for this coming school year.

Linda Shaw: 206-464-2359 or

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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