Seattle school board approves new start times for 2016-17

Tran Lam and Amy Ly

Seattle Public Schools Board Directors approved a later start time for the 2016-17 school year after an intense voting session on Nov. 18.

Board officials announced high schools will now start at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. Elementary schools will start at 8 a.m. while middle schools would start at 9:40 a.m. The new start time had varying responses from students, teachers and parents ranging from praise to criticism regarding the benefits and drawbacks of a later school day.

While changing start times has many benefits for students, there are many complications to implementing the changes. According to research provided by the district, major issues include alteration of bus transp ortation schedules; impacts to afterschool activities; safety concerns with younger children starting school in the dark and family stress from altering transportation, meal, and homework schedules.

Part of the reason for the approval of the new start times was due to critical research evidence provided by the National Sleep Foundation that shows adolescents are more alert and focused in class with eight to nine hours of sleep each night. On average, students get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night.

“There’s evidence to back up that students perform better later in the day,” said Bryan Gordon, activities coordinator. “As of now, the district is forcing students in a conflicting schedule that doesn’t support their learning and development.”

A later start time could also mean student athletes at Cleveland would be forced to miss more class time because the starting time of games located out of the district will remain the same. With school ending at 3:20 p.m. and out-of-district games starting between 4-5 p.m., students would still have to catch their game bus at 1 p.m. for the bus to be cost effective.

“Cleveland students already miss a lot of class for certain sports and the new start time would make students lose more class time if they play sport games out of district, especially with the complications with the bus schedule and the starting time of the games,” Gordon said.

Freshman Angel Corpuz has Ultimate Frisbee practice every day after school and has to shoulder her responsibilities as an athlete with her responsibilities as a student to complete her schoolwork.

“I can see the new school times adding stress to students, especially if they’re involved in a sport,” she said.

A huge problem discussed amongst scientists all over the world was that teenagers are facing a widespread chronic health problem: sleep deprivation. Getting enough sleep is a biological necessity that is pivotal to a healthy lifestyle and brain development. The consequences of sleep deprivation in teens can impair their ability to be alert, solve problems, cope with stress and retain important information. Despite the study findings, freshman Jayson Pascau is sure not much will change in his sleep schedule.

“Regardless of the new school hours, I am positive that I will be getting the same amount of sleep.”