May 042012

Yet another update: Ok, so the school board scrapped the three tier plan that this post describes once they actually put it out where the public could comment on it and the public responded with a rousing NO WAY! 

For all of you who commented on the fact that you were not keen on some school start times going as early as 7:30 or as late as 9:30, congratulations! Your voices have been heard and the school board sent the three-tier plan to the circular file. If you’re not familiar with the story read on below. You can read the district’s statement on the new proposal here. You can see the new proposal itself in all its PDF glory here. There is still some uncertainty about start times for some schools but the differences are significantly smaller than they were in the original proposal.

The next School Board meeting is on Wednesday, May 16 at 6 pm at the District offices at the John Stanford Center.  If you are interested in seeing what happens in person come on down! Public testimony is at the beginning of the meeting and you have to sign up in advance to get a turn to speak. Here is a link to the procedure to sign up for public testimony.


Old Update: Added steps you can take this week to make your opinion known to the school board. Added talking points to highlight the issues if you would like to write to the school board. Added additional links for District resources and contact links.

On May 16 the school board is expected to vote on new transportation standards introducing a three-tier system that would radically change school start times throughout the district.

This might be considered business as usual if it weren’t for a number of issues that have the parent community up in arms. You may remember that just last year there were a number of transportation changes that resulted in some schools having to change their start times. The changes were meant to save money but that’s obviously not the case because the district is claiming these new changes are necessary due to transportation expenditures, which are expected to be approximately $2 million over budget this year.

Some of the issues with the way this new transportation plan are being handled include the fact that there was little to no public outreach for input into the plan before it was sent to the school board. In addition the changes are being proposed after open enrollment has closed. This is in direct violation of the school district’s own policy. In fact on page 5 of the Proposed Transportation Standards document it says, “Developing bus arrival/departure times and school start/end times must be coordinated, and approval of each must be completed prior to the start of the Open Enrollment process.” For those of you keeping score, Open Enrollment ended on March 9. This means that families who committed to a school expecting a certain start time may now have to deal with a new arrival time as early as 7:10am or as late as 9:20am. This could obviously have a negative impact on many families not to mention the schedule and budget impacts to school district staff who have child-care issues of their own.

The proposed plan is a three tier bus routing system that looks like this:



Arrival Time


Departure Time

First Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options



Second Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options



Second Tier – Elementary



Third Tier – HS/MS/K8/Options



Third Tier – Elementary



AM – Head Start



PM – Head Start



No schools have been assigned to these tiers yet but K8 and Option schools assigned to the First Tier could have elementary students waiting in the dark as early as 6:00am for a bus.

The School Board reviewed the plan with the first public comment on May 2. One of the parents from our school attended and had these observations:

There were numerous comments that if we don’t adopt this plan next year we will have to RIF (fire) more teachers. This seemed to be the only alternative being presented. Surely there must be other options. Perhaps doing away with the MAP test, which it can be argued has not been providing the promised return on investment.

The lack of public input has prevented the offering of other creative solutions from the community. There was concern at the meeting about adding “hub” stops on more bus routes – as a different way to cut transportation costs. Objections were raised over discipline concerns and concern that property owners at the hub bus stops would object. At our school all the buses this year are using hub bus stops.  We have not heard of any complaints from property owners, we have not had discipline problems at our hub bus stops, and our school community has embraced the hub system. Why is this, or other solutions from the community, not being considered?

If you would like to learn more about this here are some helpful links:

Seattle School Board. Look at their upcoming agenda and review meeting notes.

Revised 2012-2013 Transportation Service Standards.

Take Action:

Here are the steps we urge you to take THIS WEEK to affect the outcome of the vote scheduled for MAY 16th:

  1. Write a letter to the Seattle School District Board of Directors. You can email them all together here, or you can find their individual email addresses here.
  2. Reach out to your network of SPS parents. Every school and every family could be affected by this proposal. Share the attached. Share your personal letters. Share your sense of urgency.  Post about this on FaceBook.
  3. Write a letter to the editor of your favorite Seattle city or neighborhood paper
  4. Reach out to your childcare provider to see how this would affect them. Encourage them to write letters to the school board directors as well
  5. Let Mayor McGinn and Tim Burgess know your thoughts and ask for their intervention: mention what could be the impact on the upcoming levy if Seattle families lose faith in our SPS board.
    1. Contact info for McGinn can be found here.
    2. Contact info for Tim Burgess can be found here.
  6. Attend School Board Director community meetings this week:
    1. Director Marty McClaren from 12:30-2:00 on Wednesday May 9th at the Southwest Library, 9010 35th Ave SW
    2. Director Sherry Carr at 8:30-10AM this Saturday, May 12th at Bethany Church, 8023 Greenlake Drive.
  7. Give testimony or simply attend the School Board meeting on May 16th (6 PM at the John Standford Administration Building). One person suggested that people bring their kids in pajamas.

Other ideas always welcome.

Talking Points:

Email Addresses: 

No Public Engagement:  The District introduced the new transportation plan at the School Board meeting on Wednesday, May 2 to be voted on at the next meeting, May 16.  Staff admitted there was no public engagement prior to introduction of the plan.  Furthermore, the proposal acknowledges that 5-6 additional schools will need to be moved to Tier One, but staff won’t disclose which schools will be affected. That robs those who will be affected of the opportunity to evaluate the impact to their school communities and provide feedback.

After Open Enrollment:  The Transportation Service Standards, adopted by the School Board on February 1, 2012, state that bus arrival/departure times and school start/end times must be established prior to the start of Open Enrollment.  Open Enrollment ended in March.

Enrollment:  The District has not considered the impact on Enrollment if they make this change now.  We predict that many families will leave option schools on Tier One because of the time change and show up at their attendance area school, many of which are already over-crowded.

Safety:  The Transportation Service Standards state that option schools can have bus rides up to 60 minutes.  For an option school K-8 on the first tier for buses, with a bus arrival time of 7;10 am, that means that some buses could be picking up children at 6:10 am.  With a 45 minute ride, the first bus pick-up would be at 6:25 am.  For bus routes with community stops, the bus stop can be up to ½ mile from a child’s home.  It is not safe for young children to be walking to their bus stops and waiting at bus stops in the dark.

Sleep Issues:  Young children who require 11 or more hours of sleep at night would have to go to sleep at 6 pm.  Research shows that middle and high school students should start school later.  This early a start to the school day will not lead to good educational outcomes for any students – elementary, middle or high school.

Parental support and engagement in homework: Research shows that parental support and engagement in homework is an important contributor to student achievement. Yet, changes to school start times will have little to no effect on the core working hours of the vast majority of parents. All it will do is reduce the number of hours that working parents and children have together to read, review assignments, and give and get help with homework.

Impact on Staff:  Some staff will not be able to continue to work at schools on Tier One.  For example, day cares typically open at 7 am.  A staff member who is required to be at school prior to bus arrivals will not be able to work at a Tier One school.  This will mean Tier One schools will be disadvantaged because the pool of available staff will be smaller than other schools in the district.

Impact on after-school care infrastructure: Spreading out the bell times for different elementary and K-8 schools will put on a strain on various aspects of after-care infrastructure. Programs will have to staff for longer and pass those costs on to parents.

Lunch:  Right now, TOPS starts at 8:20 and half our students eat lunch at 10:45 am.  Many parents find their children come home with their untouched lunches because children are not hungry for lunch at 10:45 am.  Teachers (especially in the youngest grades) report that they have had to add afternoon snack because the kids are hungry, reducing instructional time.  With a 7:30 am start, lunch would have to occur at approximately 9:55 am, even earlier.

Cost Analysis:  The District’s proposal does not contain the kind of cost analysis the School Board should insist on before changing school start times drastically.  Where is the support for the claim that doing this will save $1 million?

Need to Cut Costs:  It is disingenuous for the District to claim that if the transportation plan is not adopted, they will have to RIF more teachers.  There are other areas of the budget that can be cut.  And, the District is considering the purchase of an office building and buy-back of a ground lease for $3.2 million, introduced at the same May 2 meeting and also scheduled for a May 16 vote.  Does it make sense that the District can spend $3.2 million to purchase an office building and at the same time, claim that it must inconvenience thousands of families and adversely affect educational outcomes for thousands of students by changing bus times in order to save $1 million?

Failure to Consider Alternatives:  The District has not considered other ways to cut transportation costs that would not inconvenience families and staff and have an adverse impact on educational outcomes.  For example, District staff discouraged the suggestion of one School Board Director to expand community stops to more bus routes, stating there could be discipline problems at bus stops and complaints from property owners.  District staff did not consult with families or staff at TOPS, which is using community stops on all buses this year – without complaint and without discipline problems.

Three Tier v. Two Tier:  If the only way the District can reliably operate a three tier bus system is to push back start times to 7:30, then perhaps we should conclude that three tiers don’t work in Seattle because of our geography and travel times.


Wednesday, May 9 — Director McLaren Community meeting – 12:30-2:30 p.m. at Southwest Library, 9010 35th Avenue SW

Saturday, May 12 — Director Carr Community meeting from 8:30am-10:00am at Bethany Community Church, 8023 Green Lake Dr – Christian Education Building (corner of N 81st and Stone Ave N).  The entrance can be accessed from N 81st Street, next to the playground.

School District Statement on the rationale for the new plan.

Story summarizing the issues in the Seattle Times.

 Posted by on May 4, 2012

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