Some parents upset over proposed new start times for Seattle schools as board nears decision

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SEATTLE -- The Seattle school board is expected to vote Nov. 4 on new school start times for thousands of students.

Some parents say they are upset over their young kids going to school too late in the day.

Parents say their children could be getting out of school closer to the evening rush hour. Not all kindergarten and elementary school kids are in the same boat. The district says their decision all boils down to money.

“All of the input we had put in all Seattle Public Schools for all those months were discounted” parent Rebecca Garcia said.

Garcia has been lobbying the school for months hoping the bells at her son’s K-8 school would ring earlier next year.

“We just wish we had a better outcome,” Garcia said.

Under Seattle Public Schools' latest proposal, middle and high school students will start classes at 8:40 a.m. instead of 7:50 a.m.

“The research is clear, we get better results starting later,” psychologist and author Gregory Jantz said.

Some doctors say older kids perform better when classes start later.

But Garcia’s son is a second-grader at Louisa Boren STEM K-8, and some doctors say younger children’s ability to learn isn’t affected very much by bell times.

“Younger kids, it’s less of a concern,” Jantz said.

Garcia’s concern has to do more with her son missing after-school activities and getting home safely. She says three different K-8 schools could start at 9:40 a.m. and end at 4:20 p.m.

“There is some concern about kids moving along this busy thoroughfare when it's dark outside, when there are a lot of commuters,” Garcia said.

“They are definitely being listened to. We have received all the input, thousands and thousands of comments,” said Sam Markert, a senior project manager at Seattle Public Schools.

The district says accommodating everyone’s needs would have cost them $8 million to $15 million for extra transportation and staff.

“We are focusing on the equity, making sure those students who are historically underserved are receiving the most support,” Markert said.

The district says they are allowing earlier start times for younger kids in lower socioeconomic communities so they can benefit from after-school programs.

“Community-based organizations have the ability to work with the students, there is a lot more mentoring. Again, it’s the district’s focus on the opportunity gap," Markert said.

“They are always saying it's money, it,s budget. It goes back to the state fully funding education -- and it does,” parent Darcey Pickard said.

Parents say they will continue to fight the bell time issue until the November vote.

Meanwhile, a large group of parents upset upset over what they call a lack of funding showed up to the state Senate Education Committee meeting on Monday.

Parents held signs and planned to address lawmakers about their concerns.