skip to main content
caption: Daniel Bagley Elementary School in north Seattle.
Enlarge Icon
Daniel Bagley Elementary School in north Seattle.
Credit: Joe Wolf/Flickr Photo (CC BY-ND 2.0)

School Will Start Later For Many Seattle Teens

A lot of Seattle teens can hit the snooze button next school year.

The school board voted 6-1 Wednesday night to push back start times for middle and high schools.

Research shows that teenagers’ brains are biologically unprepared to learn until mid-morning. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that middle and high school start no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

But most Seattle middle and high schools start 40 minutes earlier than that, at 7:50. Meanwhile, elementary schools start at 8:40 or 9:30, despite the fact that young kids’ brains are usually ready to learn much earlier in the morning.

Parents, teachers and sleep experts lobbied the district to flip bell times so elementary schools would start early, and middle and high schools would start later. A district task force agreed and said that the best plan would have two start times: one for younger kids, one for teens.

But the district said simplifying school start times would cost at least $8 million in additional school buses. So the plan the board approved moves most middle and high school start times to 8:45 and most elementary start times to 7:55.

All except for 13 elementary, middle and K-8 schools that will start much later – at 9:35. That group is called "tier three.”

In public testimony, mom Carin Towne said the board should reject the proposal because young students are ready to learn much earlier than that 9:35 start time.

"Tier-three students’ best learning should not be sacrificed for the betterment of everyone," Towne said. "It’s just not fair.”

But teacher Leah Van More said the change would at least be a step in the right direction.

“It doesn’t make sense to me to object to something for my kids if the alternative is that more kids would be subjected to it,” Van More said.

The board’s decision makes Seattle one of the largest districts in the country to push back bell times for teens.

Photo: Front/East Elevation: Daniel Bagley Elementary School, Seattle WA by Joe Wolf on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)