The Seattle school board took the first official step Wednesday on a long journey toward later school start times for teens.
But the changes won’t happen until the fall of 2016, if they happen at all.
The board directed district staff to analyze the costs, logistics and potential disruptions around starting school later for middle and high school students, and to determine what it would take to make the changes happen.
More than 3,800 people have signed an online petition seeking start times no earlier than 8:30 a.m. for Seattle middle schools and high schools. Several organizations also have expressed support, including the Seattle Council of Parent, Teacher and Student Associations, the Seattle School Nurses Association, and the Seattle Education Association.
Several area sleep experts have joined parent activists in calling for school schedules that accommodate adolescent biological sleep patterns. They cite evidence that teens tend to be biological night owls and delayed start times improve their health, mood, attendance and, in some cases, learning.
But the change likely would have far-reaching consequences affecting elementary-school students, athletics, before- and after-school programs and other functions that would need to adjust their hours accordingly.
That’s why the board is giving the district more than a year to figure it out and provide the public ample opportunity to weigh in with questions and concerns.
The board won’t have a proposal to consider until September of 2015, and any such plan wouldn’t take effect until the 2016-2017 school year.
Advocates had hoped for a shorter turnaround.
Board member Sherry Carr said past efforts to delay start times fizzled because they never officially were added to the district’s workload. This resolution establishes deadlines for action.
“It puts it on a timeline where we will either say yes we’re going to do it or no we’re not,” Carr said.
The work will be part of an overall plan to simplify the district’s transportation system now that it has gone from letting students choose which school they attend to assigning them, in most cases, to a neighborhood school.