Seattle Public Schools Switch Up Start Times — And Teens Get To Sleep In

Aug 26, 2016

Back to school is a time of transitions for families. But for students in Seattle Public Schools, this fall marks a major change for those trying to get their kids out the door each morning. This school year, the start times will finally align with kids’ circadian rhythms. 

Cindy Jatul is a mom and biology teacher at Roosevelt High School in Seattle. She was also involved with the task force that pushed for the change in start times.  She says first period is very, very different from any other class in the day.

 “Because students just stare at you. They don’t answer questions, they’re just not cognitively all there yet," Jatul said.

The research is clear; A later start time means teenagers do better in school.  

”We have been asked by the medical community to look at changing our start times, said Peg McEvoy, assistant superintendent for operations at Seattle Public Schools.  

"We went through a community conversation for a year to find out whether the community would support that, and if so, how best to implement that," Mc Evoy said.

In Seattle, schedules will flip;  Middle and high school kids will start about an hour later, while most elementary schoolers will hear the bell ring an hour earlier.  That switch has left some parents wondering what this all means for after-school childcare and things like soccer practice.  

The district has partnered with the childcare providers to ensure extended hours, but it will take the time and commitment of the community over the next year to iron out the kinks.

“Things will come up and we will need to address that, and we know that and we have a team that is still meeting in order to try and problem solve the issues,” said McEvoy.

Seattle is one of the first districts in the area to switch bell times. The change took nearly 10 years to implement, partly because of transportation costs.

Evergreen Public Schools in Clark County, Washington are also adjusting start times this fall. 

Bellingham Public Schools and the Northshore School District, which includes Bothell are moving toward similar changes for the 2017-18 school year.  

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misstated that Bellingham Public Schools would move to a later start time for middle- and high school students in 2016-2017. Bellingham middle schools already start later; high schools will move to a later start time in the 2017-18 school year.