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Bell Schedules

Bell Time Changes

Bell Time Changes for 2022-23 

Move to Three Start Times Proposed

May 4 update: Schedule for Bell Times Change Proposal Changed

Superintendent Brent Jones made the following statement at the School Board meeting on Wednesday, May 4, 2022. Previously, we had expected the Transportation Services Standards to be introduced at that meeting. 

“Over the last several weeks we have been listening to the concerns from school, families and partners around the proposed move to a 3-tier bell schedule.

“We hear you, and we are slowing down the decision-making process so we can continue to identify ways to alleviate the concerns that have been raised. As a result, the school board will not consider any transportation-related matters during tonight’s [May 4, 2022] session.

“Seattle Public Schools is committed to providing reliable transportation that gets students to school on time and ready to learn.  Staff will continue to work with schools, families, and partners over the next several weeks as we refine this plan.

“We will continue to communicate updates to families directly and through updates on the bell times webpage. Staff is continuing to read and record all feedback received through Let’s Talk and all other feedback channels.

“We value your continued feedback and partnership.”

Seattle Public Schools is proposing to change to a three-tier bell times schedule (school start times) beginning in September 2022. Currently, there are two tiers of start times for our schools — one start time for most elementary schools, and one start time for K-8, middle, and high schools. The change will put in place a three-tier system. 

We know that changing the bell times will require adjustments for families and staff. This change is recommended to ensure students consistently arrive at school on time. 

Why This Change Is Necessary

This school year, there have been challenges in providing reliable yellow bus service for eligible students as a result of a nationwide driver shortage.  

There have not been enough drivers available for the number of school buses we need for the current start times. This means our district had to suspend some bus routes, and some buses arrived one to two hours late.  

There are 50 suspended school bus routes due to a lack of drivers. The nationwide shortage of school bus drivers is expected to continue next year.  

Moving to a three-tier system of start times would allow each driver to drive more routes and reduce the number of drivers needed. This will allow our district to meet the goal of safe, reliable, on-time transportation for students. 

May 3 Information Session

Three Tiers of Start Times

Schools will be assigned to different tiers of start times, just like they are now. Instead of having two different start times, there would be three start times.  

Start times need to be one hour apart. Currently, we are considering: 

Tier 1

Start 7:30 a.m.
7:40 a.m.

Tier 2

Start 8:30 a.m.  

Tier 3

Start 9:30 a.m.  

Setting the Tiers and Draft Times for Each School

We have a draft plan for which schools would be in which tier. As always, equity and Seattle Excellence, the district’s strategic plan drove considerations.

In addition, SPS Operations division: 

  • Looked at schedules for high school athletics and other after-school activities 
  • Considered family needs such as student jobs and taking care of siblings 
  • Consulted other departments and divisions on specific needs and groupings 
  • Consulted with external partners including childcare providers, the City of Seattle, and Seattle Children’s

Other considerations included daylight hours and the potential move to permanent daylight savings time, and studies that show teens learn better with later start times.   

We have a draft plan for which schools would be in which tier. This information could change.

Elementary Schools

School nameProposed tierStartEnd
Adams​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Alki​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Arbor Heights​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Beacon Hill​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
BF Day​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Bryant​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Cascadia​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Cedar Park​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Coe​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Concord​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Daniel Bagley​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Dearborn Park​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Decatur​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Dunlap​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
EEU​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Emerson​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Fairmount Park​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Gatewood​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Gatzert​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Genesee Hill​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Graham Hill​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Green Lake​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Greenwood​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Hawthorne​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Highland Park​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
John Hay​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
John Muir​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
John Rogers​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
John Stanford​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Kimball​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Lafayette​28:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Laurelhurst​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Lawton​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Leschi​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Lowell​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Loyal Heights​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Madrona​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Magnolia​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Maple​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Martin Luther King, Jr.17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
McDonald​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
McGilvra​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Montlake​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
North Beach​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Northgate​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Olympic Hills​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Olympic View​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Queen Anne​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Rainier View​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Rising Star​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Roxhill​28:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Sacajawea​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Sand Point28:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Sanislo​28:30 a.m.3 p.m.
Stevens​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Thorton Creek​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Thurgood Marshall​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
View Ridge​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Viewlands​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Wedgwood​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
West Seattle ES​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
West Woodland​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Whittier​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.
Wing Luke​17:30 a.m.2 p.m.

K-8 Schools

School nameProposed tierStartEnd
Broadview Thomson​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Catharine Blaine​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Hazel Wolf​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Licton Springs​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Louisa Boren STEM K-8​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Orca​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Pathfinder​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
Salmon Bay​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
South Shore​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.
TOPS​39:30 a.m.4 p.m.

Middle Schools

School nameProposed tierStartEnd
Aki Kurose​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Denny​39:30 a.m.4:20 p.m.
Eagle Staff​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Eckstein ​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Hamilton​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Jane Addams28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Madison​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
McClure​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Meany​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Mercer​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Washington​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Whitman​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.

High Schools

School nameProposed tierStartEnd
Ballard ​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Center School​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Chief Sealth ​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Cleveland​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Franklin​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Garfield ​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Hale​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Ingraham​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Lincoln​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Nova​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Rainier Beach28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Roosevelt​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
Sugiyama​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
West Seattle HS​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.
World School​28:30 a.m.3:20 p.m.

Please note: Interagency and Middle College have nonstandard schedules and don’t receive the same type of yellow bus transportation so they aren’t included in the tiering model.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Challenges Identified and Considered (What We Have Heard) 

These are the challenges we have already identified in changing bell times. 

  • High schools need to let out earlier for athletic games and practices because field access ends at 5:45 
  • Older siblings often care for younger siblings after school, and different dismissal times may complicate this. 
  • Some research shows that high school students get more sleep with later start times and that more sleep leads to better outcomes. 
  • Need to coordinate with aftercare programs and community groups — schedule changes may increase childcare needs and costs before and after school 
  • It will be challenging for students to be awake and ready for the earliest buses. 
  • Very early and very late bell times mean more students will travel in the dark during winter. 
  • It is difficult to schedule professional development for elementary staff when not in same tier. 

School schedules and logistics 

Why is this change being proposed? 

The shortage of school bus drivers has been a challenge throughout the 2021-22 school year, and the nationwide shortage of drivers is expected to continue.  

After evaluating options, we determined that SPS cannot provide safe, reliable, on-time transportation services to all eligible students using a two-tier bell time schedule.  

A three-tier schedule is the recommended solution to ensure the challenges from this year don’t continue in future school years. 

Why can’t the 1st tier start at 7:55? 7:30 is too early for students to start school 

Tiers are planned to be at least an hour apart to help ensure routes can be run on time. 

If the 1st tier starts at 7:55 then the 3rd tier will start at 9:55 and students in the 3rd tier wouldn’t be dismissed until almost 5pm. We’ve heard from school leaders that it’s tough for students to concentrate that late in the day and there wouldn’t be any time for after school activity participation.  

The earliest and latest tiers will both have challenges for families. 

Will lunch times be reflective of the later start times? 

Schools work with Culinary Services to set their lunchtimes, so it will be up to the school with input from Culinary Services to determine whether to adjust lunchtimes.  

Will we be maintaining the early release on Wednesdays with this three-tier system?  

Yes. Schools will dismiss 1 hour and 15 minutes early on Wednesday afternoons as they do now. 

What time would school bus pick up and drop off be with the new tiers? 

Pickup and drop off times are determined based on route and distance. These details have not yet been finalized. Families will receive transportation schedules before school starts in September. 

Why aren’t all elementary schools in the same tier?  

There are too many elementary school bus routes to fit them all in the same tier.  

What would happen if SPS does not move to a three-tier schedule?  

If we don’t formally transition to a three-tier schedule, we will likely end up operating on an informal three-tier system anyway since the ongoing bus driver shortage will result in significantly late (1-2 hours) routes daily.  Alternatively, SPS would have to cut approximately 50 bus routes for the 2022-23 school year. This would impact approximately 1,400 students. 

Will you go back to the same tiers from the previous three-tier system?  

No. We are developing the draft schedule that keeps secondary students in later start times. The schedule from before 2017 had high school students starting school before 8 a.m.  

Did SPS consider the impact on early release and professional development Wednesdays since elementary school tiers 1 and 3 are two hours apart? 

Separating the elementary schools into two different tiers would make scheduling professional development for educators more challenging. There are too many elementary schools to serve them all in one tier. This proposal prioritizes consistently reliable transportation for students. 

What would the impact be on staff hours, especially for staff that work at more than one school? 

The length of the school day is not changing so the number of hours worked by staff will remain the same even though the start and end times are different. Staff who work at more than one school site will need to work with their supervisor(s) to determine the appropriate schedule while still working the same number of hours. 

Has SEA or any staff group been consulted?  

We have been working with HR and our Labor Relations team on this proposal. Our collective bargaining agreement with SEA does not specify start and end times as long as the number of hours worked and the length of the school day stay the same. The proposed schedule changes don’t change the length of the school day or the number of hours worked by staff. 

We have heard from staff members that an early start will be challenging, especially for those with children.  

Why wasn’t there community engagement on this change? There was a lot of discussion the last time changes were made to bell times. 

We did not conduct more in-depth community engagement during planning because changing bell times is the only option identified to meet the goal of reliable, safe, and on-time transportation for all transportation eligible students.  

We know that school leaders and families would like safe, reliable, and on-time transportation service without school schedule changes. Unfortunately, because of the ongoing bus driver shortage, it isn’t possible to provide both of those things for everyone in the district.   

We are asking community members to help us identify challenges we might not have considered yet so the School Board can weigh the benefits of a three-tier system (reliable, on-time transportation services) against potential challenges. 

Do other districts have multiple start times? 

The school districts that are located nearest to SPS have three-tier bell times. They have also faced bus driver shortages over the past year, even with hiring bonuses and other incentives. This isn’t just a local issue. The bus driver shortage is nationwide. 

Impact on families and schools 

Will we reopen the enrollment period since parents didn’t have this information when enrolling their children? Can a student change schools (school choice)? 

Families may submit a school choice form through May 31, and assignment depends on space available. Families can also submit a transfer appeal after June 1 to explain any unique circumstances that require a different school and/or start time. Families who are considering transferring to a different school should remember that their address might not qualify for transportation service at a new school. 

Why is the start time not listed for the virtual program?  

Cascade Parent Partnership (CPP) will oversee the K-12 Virtual Option. CPP has a nonstandard schedule that does not align with other SPS schools. Families attending Cascade Parent Partnership, including the virtual option, should contact the school directly with schedule questions. 

What are the other schools/districts that start that early/ that late? 

Many of our neighboring districts have three (or more) schedule tiers and many also have start times like the ones in this proposal with early tiers starting around 7:30 a.m. and the last tiers starting around 9:30 a.m. You can view a comparison of nearby school district scheduling tiers.  

Sleep was an important consideration for secondary students, but elementary school students need sleep too. What is the research on start times and sleep for younger students? 

The research on start times and sleep for older students is clear: school start times after 8:30 a.m. lead to better academic outcomes. The research on younger students is mixed, but most studies conclude that elementary aged students don’t generally suffer from earlier start times.  

Schedule changes would impact individual students and families differently. We have heard from some families that the earlier start times would be beneficial for their children while other families are concerned about their child’s sleep with a 7:30 a.m. bell time.   

Why is Denny in a different tier than all the other middle schools? 

Because Chief Sealth International High School and Denny International Middle School share a campus, they cannot release at the same time. There must be at least 30 minutes between release times per the construction Master Use Permit issued when the campuses were combined. 

Why aren’t Interagency and Middle College included in the tiers?

Interagency and Middle College have nonstandard schedules and don’t receive the same type of yellow bus transportation so they aren’t included in the tiering model.

What happens if we move to year-round daylight saving time?  

Start times would remain on the three-tier schedule. We know this means that some students would be arriving at school before the sun is up. With winter weather in Seattle, it is often dark due to cloud cover or rain even after sunrise.  

With the current schedule, sunrise in January is just before 8 a.m. Most students with a 7:55 start time are currently travelling to school before sunrise.  

During the very shortest days of the year, SPS is typically on winter break. 

Transportation logistics and other options 

How many students use school bus transportation?   

10,781 SPS students are eligible for transportation or 20% of all SPS students. There are 1,421 on suspended bus routes as of April 13, 2022.  

The demographics of all transportation eligible students are similar to district demographics, but there is a slightly greater percentage of African American/Black students among transportation eligible students and a slightly greater percentage of multi-lingual students. 

Why doesn’t SPS buy buses and have bus drivers be employees instead of contracting for these services? 

It is more cost effective to hire out transportation services.  

Why are there not enough drivers? 

While we don’t have clear answers, we do know that: 

  • Many drivers found other employment during the pandemic when schools were closed.  
  • School bus drivers work part-time with shifts in the morning and shifts in the afternoon.  
  • With a two-tier system, bus drivers can typically drive only one route in the morning and afternoon.  
  • A three-tier system means bus drivers can often drive two separate routes, which would mean more hours and might make the job more attractive. 
  • Other industries that employ drivers with commercial licenses (CDLs) also have driver shortages 

Can we address the bus driver shortage by paying bus drivers more/providing better benefits? 

There’s a national bus driver shortage and many districts, including some of our neighbors, are struggling to serve students. 

Driving a school bus is a part-time job with a few hours split between morning and afternoon. Transitioning to a three-tier schedule would mean that drivers get more hours (and more money) by driving multiple routes. With a three-tier schedule, drivers would get paid more, and SPS would save money. 

Seattle Public Schools does not set wages for bus drivers. That is done by our transportation partner, First Student and the driver union, Teamsters 174. First Student may request additional reimbursement from Seattle Public Schools to increase wages. This year First Student has increased wages and started offering incentives like hiring bonuses. You can read First Student’s open posting with wages, benefits, and incentives.

Can we reduce the number of buses needed by giving all middle and high school students ORCA cards instead of using yellow buses? 

Secondary schools are already in a different tier than elementary schools, so reducing or getting rid of secondary routes does not save on the number of drivers needed. You would have the same number of drivers, but they would only drive one route (and earn less money). Additionally, secondary routes serve a lot of students and King County Metro might not be able to absorb that many students onto their existing routes.   

What factors drove the decisions about which schools were in which tiers? 

Research shows that adolescents perform better academically with start times after 8:30 a.m., but high school students need to dismiss before 4 p.m. for athletics. This led to putting secondary schools in tier 2. 

There are too many elementary schools to put them all in the same tier. Decisions about which elementary schools went in which tiers were based on maximizing efficiency to reduce demand for bus drivers as much as possible 

Can schools share Special Education buses since they aren’t always full? 

Buses have a 10 minute drop-off window for students to ensure that there’s always supervision available when students arrive at school. The drop-off window is too short for Special Education buses to drop students off at multiple schools.

How does this affect transportation for students using special education services or who have IEPs?  

Students who are provided with transportation as part of their IEPs would continue to follow the same schedule as the schools they attend.

What other options were considered? How did SPS arrive at this solution? 

The Transportation Department has been working on how to serve all transportation eligible students all year. Some of the options we considered are: 

  • Transitioning to a three-tier schedule with secondary schools in the 2nd tier (the recommended solution). This solution was chosen because it allows us to serve all transportation eligible students. Additionally, it keeps secondary start times after 8 a.m., which is consistent with research on adolescent sleep patterns and academic achievement, while still allowing for athletics and after school activities participation. Many elementary aged students naturally wake up earlier which may make earlier start times easier for them. 
  • Transitioning to a three-tier schedule with secondary schools in the 3rd tier. Research indicates that older students have better sleep and better academic outcomes when they start later. Unfortunately, field access ends at 5:45 so a later start time would seriously limit athletics and other extracurricular or after school job participation. 
  • Maintaining the current two-tier system but splitting elementary schools between the two tiers to reduce the need for bus drivers. This solution didn’t reduce the demand for bus drivers enough to fully address the bus driver shortage. 
  • Cancel 50 bus routes. If the three-tier schedule isn’t adopted, we will have to cancel 50 bus routes for the 2022-23 school year.  

Your Thoughts or Questions 

We expect to move forward with the plan for a three-tier system of start times. We know there will be questions and challenges in this transition.  

Please use Let’s Talk to submit questions and identify any challenges we might not have considered yet. 

Recent Announcements

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Start times for 2022-23 school year update

Superintendent Jones has determined Seattle Public Schools will continue the two-tier transportation system for the 2022-23 school year.

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Bell Time Update May 5

We are slowing down the decision-making process so we can continue to identify ways to alleviate the concerns that have been raised.

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Learn more about the 2022-23 proposed bell time change

Learn more about the proposed bell times (school start and end times) for the next school year. Watch an information session hosted on May 3.

School Start Times

Seattle Public Schools is proposing a change to bell times (school start and end times) for the next school year.