Thursday, February 26, 2009

School Start Times

Out of the many issues that have arisen, perhaps the most out-of-the-blue has been the district's recent decision to include Thurgood Marshall and Lowell on the list of schools that will start instruction at 8 AM. This thread is for discussion of that issue.


Anonymous said...

All-city draw schools like Lowell should not be considered for an 8am start time.

Lowell already has some of the longest transportation times in the district. An 8am start time could require children as young as 6 years old on a bus as early as 6:30am for a 1+ hour bus ride.

BL said...

I think an elementary school start time of 8:00 is fine as long as it does not require waiting for a bus earlier than 7:30. I think a pick-up time earlier than 7:30 is unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

BL said: "I think an elementary school start time of 8:00 is fine as long as it does not require waiting for a bus earlier than 7:30. I think a pick-up time earlier than 7:30 is unreasonable"

That's a mighty fine line you're drawing there! What percentage of the bus routes to Lowell do you think are under 30 minutes? I would say it's very small, and even with clustered stops it will still be very small.

Along with everything else happening, 8am start time is a deal-breaker for us. It would mean going back to the "safety" of the NE cluster.

The scary thing is that until we know with certainty that this "disease" isn't going to spread to other elementary buildings, no one is safe anywhere.

As anonymous said above, and as many others have said, it is unreasonable to push the burden of early start times onto the youngest kids with among the longest bus rides in the city.

If there isn't a commitment to have the start times nailed down in concrete for open enrollment, everyone needs to stand up in unison and march down to the district offices for a very public protest. That would grab the media's attention as well as all the parents around the district that may not know how serious and arbitrary the process appears to be. And that it could affect anyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm close enough to drive and if this goes through I'll still bring him at nine o'clock.

Anonymous said...

We're parents of a child who is eligible for APP next year as a first-grader, and an 8:00am start time will likely mean that we won't join the program (for all the reasons mentioned by others above). Hard to believe an all-city elementary school was even considered for this. It will be next to impossible to consistently get our six-year old up and out of the house by 7:30 each day (assuming we drive to Capitol Hill), and I'm certain his learning would suffer once he sleepily gets to school.

BL said...

I'm not disagreeing with you. I think an 8:00 start time is only acceptable when it requires no child at the school to be waiting for a bus before 7:30. Clearly, this is not case for Lowell and Thurgood Marshall. (It's likely not the case for any SPS Elementary School.)

Seattlehorn said...

Steve Sundquist was the only one who responded to my email to the superintendent, board and staff members, regarding my concerns about early bell times for elementary children.

An excerpt:
"As board directors, we have had multiple conversations with the staff about this issue, and I hope to hear the staff's response within the next couple of business days. We understand that families need this information before they make their enrollment requests."

SPSmom said...

I attended the mtg where this was discussed by some members of the Bd (I think 2 - 3 were missing) and Carla S (CAO). Mary Bass wasnt there. Harium was vocal in asking attendees to stay late to specifically address this issue. He and (? - another woman, not Cheryl Chow, forgot her name) were pretty vocal and asked Carla to verify the proposal w/Transp. What are the cost-savings and what is the Academic effect of early start time on K-5/K -8. They seemed to want K-8's as well as these 2 K-5's off the list. I think Carla mentioned she would get back to them in 2 weeks? That would then be around 3/9. Sorry I cant be more specific. I wish they were more insistent in demanding supporting facts and timeline, but at least there's awareness. Unfortunately, its not subject to a Bd vote, but merely a Yay or Nay fr MGJ,the CAO, and Don Kennedy. I'm not convinced we'll have the list confirmed by 3/31, Transp says it depends on results of Open Enrollment and how that affects load factor. But really, you can go on projections and/or just decide that incl ANY K-5, esp all-city draw, is unacceptable. MEANWHILE: does anyone have ideas re how to engage current TTM and TM parents in protesting this? I wonder if those parents even realize this is on the table...and that they'll need to cover their kids in daycare fr 2 - 6 instead of 3 - 6(approx 20 more hrs per month or about $100...)

Anonymous said...

I'm not aware of any bus that is less than 30 minutes. We don't live far from Lowell (a 15 minute drive), but my daughter's bus picks up at 8:06 -- a ride of over 50 minutes, which is good for Lowell. Thurgood Marshall is twice as far from our house, and we expect a bus ride of about an hour, even though we live in the Central Cluster. That would mean a 7:00 a.m. pickup. I am particularly concerned that the district may have plans to piggy-back Marshall and Washington buses. Why else assign us to an 8:00 start. Has anyone gotten any response from the transportation dept. on why 8:00 for Lowell and Marshall alone among elementary schools? We would have serious qualms about putting our APP-eligible 1st grader on a bus filled with middle schoolers for 2 relatively unsupervised hours each day. I asked Dr. Vaughan and the Transportation Dept. to confirm that combined Washington/Marshall buses were not being considered. I have received no response from Transportation, and Dr. Vaughan asked me to direct my questions to transportation. As most Lowell parents know, the bus experience is a huge part of our childrens' day, and I am very hesitant to take my younger child out of our neighborhood school and place him on a bus at 7:00 a.m., particularly if that bus is filled with middle school children. I think we really deserve more details on 8:00 start and related bus issues before open enrollment. How can we get the district's attention?

pjmanley said...

It would be nice, since this is a community forum, for people to properly identify themselves.

SPSmom said...

I totally agree Anonymous, but I think everyone is misunderstanding Transportation's intent via the 2-tier bell system (perhaps because their powerpt on this was SO lame!) The plan is not to load diff school drop-off kids together on one bus - at least htis is what I think - but rather to have less buses utilize more hours by having them make an 8 am run, then back to wherever pickups are for the 9:15 am schools. Precisely because Lowell/TM commutes are so long, I THINK (?) the theory is it would be difficult to have those runs completed in between 8 am - 9:15 - hope that I explained that properly, but let me be clear - I am SO SO SO against this, and anyway, other contacts at Transp who are familiar w/the routes think the proposal as it stands is "illogical". It is however complex - those bus routes are insane. I dont understand why TOPS isnt on the list, must have something to do w/the location of the attending kids.

Anonymous said...

We are a 15-minute drive from Lowell and would need to put our daughter on a 7:49 bus were we to use the busses. One-hour bus rides seem pretty typical. Perhaps if Lowell/TM students aren't sharing bus routes with TOPS, and if there are clustered stops, some of the routes can be shortened, but my guess is that there would still be an awful lot of kids on bus rides of over, or substantially over, 30 minutes.

We are lucky in that driving is an option; we don't have another child in the public schools; and we can use on-site after school programs at Lowell/TM because it is easy for us to pick up our child by car.

That's not true for a lot of parents, and changing the start time means they wouldn't be able to use after-school programs where they live in Seattle going forward. It would make the split program less attractive generally for families at a time when a lot of eligible families already seem skeptical about the changes.

I assume that an all-city draw school is attractive for an early start because it would free up a lot of busses.

I think reaching out to TM and T.T. Minor parents about this is an excellent idea. I have no idea if they would be as inconvenienced, for the same reason that an early start time isn't that inconvenient for me -- they live nearby -- and because at least when my daughter was at T.T. Minor, the before-school care program was pretty well-subscribed, suggesting to me that there are a lot of T.T. Minor parents who need to be dropping their kids off substantially before a 9AM start time already.

Oh, and PJManley -- my preference is to use the same signature every time, but I don't want to sign with my name. The internets are forever, at least for now, and I don't really want to be googled.


Ben said...

We are (literally) a 10-second walk from Marshall, where our son will be going next year, as a central/south-end APP 2nd grader.

So while an earlier start time wouldn't really affect us, I still think it's a horrible idea. Can't they just stop tinkering and leave APP alone?

Seattlehorn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Seattlehorn said...

Warning, rant ahead. Route 710 from Magnolia to Lowell is the Diabolical Mystery Tour, with a new driver assigned almost daily (apparently it's a junk route that no driver wants). Parent activism has had only sporadic effect. We are never sure where, when or IF the bus will arrive. This morning it didn't show at all. A new driver who apparently got disoriented by the "snow route" motored ahead to Lowell without our kids. We were told the 710 "might have had a different number posted on it." WTH? This afternoon, a mom literally chased the meandering 710 (in her car), trying to get the driver to release her son. This is INSANE. I can't trust SPS to get my kid to and from Lowell at any hour.

Anonymous said...

SPS has a formal complaint process - go to the "customer service" link in the directory and you will find a "Public Comment Form". It's supposed to be confidential.

Laura said...

I have also heard that transportation wants to move to "cluster" bus stops for most routes next year to Lowell (I don't know about Thurgood Marshall), and I want to make sure everyone understands what that means. The stops will be far from houses, crossing arterials, and many will not be walking distance.

Currently, many Northwest and North families on routes 669 (?) and 670 are a CAR RIDE or over twenty minute walk from their stops.

The 670 bus stops at Whitman MS (7:45), North Beach(7:48), Loyal Heights (7:54), Whittier (8:03), 10th AVE NW @83rd (8:10), Greenwood(8:15) and Bagley (8:23) with arrival to Lowell at 8:45 (at least that's the schedule I have, dated 1/10/09). With the new start time, the bus would start rolling at 6:45, and I think it's fair to assume the kids with that bus stop need to be out the door 15 minutes early, 6:30, just to get to the stop. My stop, Bagley, would be a 10-15 minute walk with little ones and my son has a classmate who drives to this stop (7 minutes -- they live over 1/2 mile away crossing Aurora, and going through traffic lights, from the stop). There's no way a child could get to the stops on their own (even forth and fifth graders). Additionally, at the early hour, there will be no crossing guards with very poor visibility.

We lucked out and don't have to take the 670 bus since neighbors are TOPS kids and our joint bus stop is just a block from our house. The transportation office is "allowing" us to remain this bus for now. So if some of the information I've provided on "cluster" bussing is out-dated or incorrect, please chime in.

The transportation office sent out another letter to "cluster stop" families that said their goal was to shorten total route time to 45 minutes, but that still means, in the route above, a North Beach kid will need to leave his/her house around 6:45 AM just to get to the bus stop -- in the dark, no crossing guards, dressed in a dark navy uniform (oh, sorry -- that's another thread!)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for pointing out the "cluster stop" issue. The current service standards for elementary bus stops:

"Walking distance to bus stops will be 7 blocks or less for elementary school students where feasible. Elementary students will not be assigned to bus stops which require them to cross arterial status streets which are contrary to the established recommended walkways for adjacent reference area schools."

With the "cluster" model your stop can be 1 mile away and crossing major arterials. This means your child cannot walk home alone from the bus. This means you may have no choice but to drive to the bus stop. Don't have a car? You're out of luck.

Why are these service standards sudddenly not applicable to only one subgroup?

For middle and high school kids the service standard is 10 blocks (about 1/2 mile).

Anonymous said...

Apparently the agenda posted for the March 4th School Board meeting included an Introductory Item titled "Transportation." It included a section on school start and ending times. (final vote then would have been March 18th).

For some reason, this intro item was removed several hours later, and word is that it will be introduced on March 18, with board vote in April, after school registration deadline.

Has anyone heard about this, or is there a way to verify - or get the district to confirm bell times before 3/31? This is truly insane!

Anonymous said...

I hope everyone with transportation concerns/bad experiences/pick-up time data is sending them to the SPS transporation manager, Tom Bishop, and copying the superintendent (I hear she reads all her mail, even if she cant respond to it all).
Talking among ourselves is good on comparing notes, data, rumors or rants. ALong with that, we have to let the powers-that-be know as well. Contrary to popular belief, i think they do take parent concerns into account sometimes!

SPSmom said...

If yr against the proposed 8 am start time for Lowell/TM (the ONLY elementary on the list - and not all of hte all-city draw K-8's are on the 8 am list - like Tops) - you absolutely need to forward a letter to all Bd members, MGJ, Carla S (CAO) and Don Kennedy (COO). This could be a cc of a ltr to TBishop - as anyone who'se tried to complain about bus issues knows, TB ignores all emails and vmails. Apparently, this is something that concerns the Bd, so DO copy them! I will provide all these emails in another post. Meanwhile, does anyone know for sure if the changing bell times are subject to a Bd vote or not? I thought the proposal could change based on Bd input, but that ultimately, it would be Yay or Nay via MGJ, the CAO, and Don Kennedy (COO?). Now I am hearing it IS subject to a Bd Vote? And how can we truly confirm we get this info prior to 3/31? If they propose to change bell times by an hour and assume it wont affect choice and parents' scheduling, that is absolutely the most disrespectful thing this District has done (and there have been so, so many...) Feedback on this would be most helpful - THANKS!

sonicmom said...

FROM HARIUM's BLOG: March 1, 2009 10:23 AM
Blogger Harium said...
There are several question around when the start times will be decided by the district. As I understand this issue is not voted on by the board. Currently the board is working with the staff to insure that whatever change is made, it is done with input from the board. Than being said the final decision won't come most likely until the second week of March. There will be a presentation to the board at the March 4 board meeting.

SO - per the note sent out via Lowellink tonight..the 3/4 Bd Mtg would be an EXCELLENT time to air yr thoughts about this proposed new start time. Even tho its not listed on the current agenda, apparently the Bd IS expecting Transp. to discuss/support their proposal on 3/4.

Shannon said...

From this FAQ on Start times it seems that Lowell and TM are now scheduled for the 9.15am start time.

"Most secondary schools (high schools and middle schools) and K-8 schools will
begin their school day at 8:00 a.m. Most elementary schools will begin their
school day on average at 9:15 a.m., including Lowell Elementary and Thurgood
Marshall Elementary.

Ben said...

So SPS has no idea what they're doing. I'd think they'd be more interested in hiding that fact.

Dorothy said...

9:15AM is much better than 8AM for lots of reasons, but here's one particular rub that no one is considering. I live in NE, not far from Bryant. It's six miles to Lowell and without traffic takes maybe 15 minutes by car.

My son went to Lowell for five years. The bus ride was not bad, he was usually picked up around 8:18AM and the bus was almost never late to school. However, if I volunteered at school and drove, expecting to be there at 9AM, I had to leave by 8:20AM. Otherwise, the back-ups on 520 and the Montlake Bridge meant I'd be late. Moving the start time to 9:15 almost guarantees that the kids will hit the worst of the daily bridge back-up. What about construction for light rail? Yikes no matter what, I suppose.

hschinske said...

That is true, Dorothy. In our experience, the bus to Washington Middle School took the same amount of time as the bus to Lowell (and was less often delayed), even though the distance was noticeably longer, and the reason was the lack of traffic on the roads at the earlier hour.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

The latest proposal from Transportation is a 9:30 start time (3:45 release) for elementary students. There is also an introduction item about shortening mid winter break.