Bell Times: Action Needed

Laurelhurst Elementary School Community:
If you are a parent who prefers an earlier start time next fall, please consider copying (edit as needed) and pasting the following form letter to the email addresses listed below or write your own.  This needs to be done as soon as possible, as the final vote is next Wednesday, November 18th.

Please send communications to the following sps and school board members:
[email protected]org
[email protected]org 
[email protected]org
[email protected]
[email protected]seattleschools.org
[email protected]
[email protected]seattleschools.org
[email protected]org
[email protected]
[email protected]com

To whom it may concern,

I am strongly opposed to a Tier 3 (9:35 or 9:40 a.m.) start time proposed for our school. All elementary schools must have the same, appropriate early start time for maximum learning of all students. Depriving students of 10 elementary schools the clear positive impacts of an earlier day is not justified and is unacceptable.

School start and end times impact how children learn. A study of the Minneapolis School District found significant negative effects of later start times including student fatigue and disengagement. This study, and others, appropriately prompted the Seattle Public Schools bell time discussion to ensure younger and older students are learning during their most attentive and productive hours. The District must ensure all students receive these benefits.

Later start and release times radically limit the ability for students to participate in after school activities, essential for educational and social learning. With nearly all other elementary students releasing at 2:05 p.m., after school activities will be shifted to accommodate the majority of students. Our children, and the few others in Tier 3, will be excluded because of the much later release time. Students who may need additional educational assistance, or have special needs (e.g. speech therapy), will have limited options because of the nearly non-existent after school hours available.  In addition, we face safety concerns as our youngest students walk home or get off the bus in darkness part of the year.

Further, the National Sleep Foundation states that forcing young children’s extracurricular activities and homework into the evening makes it nearly impossible to get the recommended 9-11 hours of sleep per night, and the sleep is of a lesser quality.  Multiple doctors supported this fact in their testimony at the November 4th School Board meeting. 

Later start times impact everyone in a school community. For families with two working parents, it is a struggle to find before and after school childcare and the suggested changes make it even more difficult and increase costs. Teachers will miss critical professional development. 

The District will have to revisit this proposal in the very near future to meet the required additional 20 minutes to the school day. Do the hard work and closer analysis now to realize efficiencies and overcome budget constraints. Put kids’ learning in front of buses today, not in a year or two.  

A survey of the Laurelhurst Elementary school community showed 78% of the families prefer an earlier (7:55 a.m.) start time. Of the 22% remaining, 91% preferred a start time before 9:40 a.m.We wholeheartedly agree with a recent Seattle Times editorial which opined that:

“District staff zeroed in on a cost-neutral solution instead of alternatives that would have required about $3 million in additional costs on top of the more than $35 million the district budgeted for transportation this school year.  Fiscal prudence is important, but so is providing the best conditions for learning. The district should find ways to phase in the 13 most impacted schools as soon as possible and create a standard schedule for the entire district. Just as districts are responding to the needs of teenage students, they must do the same for students of all grades and ages.”

The current patch-work proposal allows most kids to benefit from a research-supported improved school day while a small minority does not. This divides the greater Seattle Public School community and creates an isolated group of 10 elementary schools who are forced to “rock the boat” to receive the same fundamental and appropriate school day.  We expect the District to implement a program equally across all schools. PLEASE do the right thing, and what’s best for all students and families, by investing in a two-tiered system now.  

Thank you,

Laurelhurst Elementary School Parent