Input Needed: School Start and End Times for Fall 2016

A Message from Superintendent Greg Baker

Dear Families,

During the last several weeks, I’ve enjoyed meeting with many of our high school students by grade level. Our discussions have focused on a proposal to increase electives, course offerings and opportunities for our middle and high school students to discover and develop their passions, part of our vision for every student in The Bellingham Promise, the strategic plan of Bellingham Public Schools.

For fall 2016 and beyond, we’re considering adding 30 more minutes to the secondary school day to help students meet the state’s new 24-credit graduation requirement. Adding more time to the secondary school day for students also allows for a later start time for high school to support the medical research that teens’ sleep cycles benefit from a later wake-up time.

To improve opportunities for kids with an emphasis on the whole child (more visual and performing arts, technology, etc.) requires a big, multi-million dollar financial investment in more certificated (approximately 40 additional middle and high school teachers) and classified staffing. To keep the major investment in schools and avoid having to purchase many more buses, we would need to adjust school start and end times for all three levels – elementary, middle and high school. Again, this would not be for next school year, but starting in fall 2016. Start and end times will remain as they currently are for the 2015-16 school year.

While this proposal focuses on middle and high school students, our budgets in recent years have already provided for lower class sizes in our primary grades, counselors and more at our elementary schools. So, it’s true that this part of the proposed budget provides a greater benefit for middle and high school students. That said, our elementary students grow into middle and high school students quicker than we can all believe.  We also remain hopeful that the state will provide more funding targeted for lowering class sizes, especially at our elementary grades.

This is a complex proposal because of the transportation issues involved. Please take a moment to watch this brief video about our proposal, which if implemented, would not begin until fall 2016. You can read details about proposed start and end times in this brochure.  As an alternative to the e-zine version of the brochure, please click here for a PDF version.

Three ways to give feedback on this proposal and other new budget priorities outlined in the brochure: Blog with me on the topic, take this online survey by March 9, or work with your principal to invite me to a PTA or “coffee with the superintendent” meeting to answers your questions.

Your input is really important to me, which I hope you’ve come to realize during our five years of working together now. We’ll have a better solution the more voices and perspectives that we have in the process.

Thank you,

Greg Baker