I’m very excited and proud that today we have released details of our plans for start and end times in 2017-18.

I realize change can bring some challenges – for our families, students, staff and community. But I believe making a change to benefit student health, academic success, stress, mood, attendance, etc. (the list goes on) is change worth making.

If you are completely new to this conversation and wondering “what, when, where, why?” we have some resources, which I think may be helpful. Here is a webpage we’ve developed to help explain our process, who has given feedback and the basis for our decision to shift start times at high school to allow our teenage students to get more sleep.

Bellingham Public Schools is not alone in this effort. Districts across the state and country are shifting start times later at the high school level after the American Academy of Pediatrics came out with a recommendation that encourages districts to delay middle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later. We interviewed students, as well as local doctors for our video to explain our rationale for these changes.

We’ve been reminded during this engagement process that a “perfect” schedule that works for every family, student and staff’s needs does not exist. Parents work different hours, students have various commitments after school, etc. There are also a lot of transportation complexities that come with changing bell times. We are a district made up of 22 schools across a large district; starting and ending school at the same time is just not realistic when we have an aging bus fleet and a very difficult time hiring bus drivers. To make this shift and keep our level of service the same (from transportation to school programs), we are considering running a transportation levy. If you are interested in being part of our exploratory process, you can find more information here.

What resonates with you? Do you have any wonders about this plan I can help address?


Comments (67)

  • This is a horrible plan. My child’s bus currently pics her up at 7:56 am for elementary school. So, you want me to have her at the bus stop at 7:26 am next year? When her sister was in elementary school, Roosevelt started at 9 am and now you want it to start at 8 am? You all cut bus services some years back and now you want elementary school students to lose out on sleep so high school students can start later? This is a horrible idea. If you want to give high school students more sleep time, find a way to get more buses and do not make elementary kids start earlier. They need sleep, too!!!

    • As a mom of 2 teens and a Child and Adolescent Mental Heath Specialist —THANK YOU! For finding a way to make this essential change to the High School start time.
      So many teens will benefit from this difficult but excellent decision.
      Kate Haskell, MA, LMHC, NCC

    • Thank you for your comment. I’m sorry you are not a fan of our plans. I agree with you that it can be difficult when transportation influences our bell times, and we are looking to purchase more buses to alleviate some of the challenges, especially with our early morning pick-ups at the elementary level. And elementary students definitely need sleep, as do we all! Medical experts say it’s easier to get an elementary student in bed by 8 or 9 p.m. (compared with getting a teenager to turn in before 11 p.m.).

  • Is the school district going to pay the extra costs in child-care? This change will triple my cost in child-care.
    My high schooler picks up and watches my elementary student.
    And now HS students will just get home later from sports and work, so they will stay up later doing homework and not get any more sleep.

    • Thank you for asking this very important question. We completely understand this can be a tension point for some families, and we are continuing to work solutions with community partners. I can tell you that we now have after school care at all 14 of our elementary schools, thanks to the YMCA. You can contact them about rates and their sliding scale and price structure. The Boys and Girls Club is also a great and affordable option for families needing after school care. I realize these options may not be as convenient has having your teenager watch your elementary student. Please remember these changes won’t go into effect until fall of 2017, which gives us all more time to plan. Thanks for your comment!

  • I hate this idea of the high school starting later and so does my freshman daughter… So glad she plans on doing running start her JR year when this is implimented… The kids won’t get more sleep because they will be up later doing everything from sports, work, volunteer time, family time and more.. Not sure how it is going to help. By high school kids need to not be caideled and realize this is the real world.. Welcome to it!

    • Thanks for your candid comment. I do appreciate the feedback. To counter your concerns, I have also heard from numerous high school parents, students and teachers who are very excited and energized by this change. Here is an email I received from one of our high school teachers, who is also a parent: “Greg, Thank-you tenfold for your patience, persistence and amazing leadership around start times for High School students. Our student (as research has proven) are not awake and engaged until later in the morning! Having them arrive even 45 minutes later honors their health, supports their academic success and gives teens hope for an already overwhelming requirement for graduation.”

      • Hello again,

        Yes, absolutely families of high schoolers are thrilled about this because 7 45 is way too early for them to get to school and I might add it is unsafe for kids walking in the winter.

        Families of elementary school kids are not happy as 8:00 am is way too early for young children as well, particularly because parents don’t start work until 9 and this gives them an unhealthy long day at after care.

        8:00 am is too early of a start time for school, that is the problem it’s not good for the majority of any age of children and it’s not good for the majority of families.

        May I ask what is wrong with a later start time for everyone if it must be staggered?

  • Greg,

    Please don’t mess with the start and end times. 830 is early enough. There is no way I can get out any earlier and an earlier release just means more time for my child at after school care. I have a set work schedule which does not adjust on the whims of the school district. Why would you buy more buses when you could just stay with a consistent school schedule? My child doesn’t even qualify for bus transportation.

    very sincerely,

    Caleb Buchanan

    Elementary school father

    • Hi Caleb, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m sorry that the 8 a.m. start time at elementary isn’t an improvement for your family. I’m hopeful that as your student progresses through our system, hopefully the later start times at middle and high school will be more convenient. We need to buy more buses to help with the 30 minute start time difference between elementary and high school; generally our transportation department needs 45 minutes in between each pick up to ensure a smooth and on-time commute.

  • Please don’t do this, this makes a very long day for young children with working parents who go to after care programs, as a parent of a 19 year old and seven year old I am strongly opposed to this new schedule, it’s very hard on young kids and on working parents who both also need sleep.

    • Thanks for your comment. I understand that every parent and family has different schedules and needs, which makes these decisions very complex. What may be ideal for one family creates a hardship for the next. I absolutely agree that we all need sleep, including our young kids. Many doctors say elementary students’ body clocks are more in tune in an 8 or 9 p.m. bed time, while teenagers are generally winding down by 10 or 11 p.m.

      • Hi Dr Baker,

        I absolutely agree that those are appropriate bed times for those ages, my highschooler was not able to make it to class for 7 45 and did not graduate high school, now that she is in the Impact program at the college she is excelling and never misses a class.

        I fear that my elementary schooler will be facing the same dilemma as we will also not be able to get her to school by 8 am (we didn’t qualify for public transportation for either child).

        On top of the matter of it being too early it will create a 10 hour day for our child by the time we pick her up at 5 30, that is way too long of a day for a young child. You could suggest that we pick her up earlier but we work standard business hours and I would request of the education system it respect and maintain standard business hours. We are after all doing this to give our children the privilege of going into the work force where there are standard guide lines and hours. Yes those are becoming more and more flexible but still there is a standard, it’s 9:00am to 5:00pm Monday to Friday, there is plenty of time within those hours to work with for buses and teachers and to align at least the drop off or pick up at at time that will be sensible for parents.


  • While this is slightly better than the previous plan, I don’t understand how increasing the high school day by only 15 minutes will provide enough time to add extra electives at the high school level.
    Also, still too early for elementary school.

    • I can understand the confusion! You’re right: the 15 minutes doesn’t seem like it would make that much of a difference, but what it will do is help when we transition from a six period schedule at the high school level to a different schedule. It also allows us to take a small step in the direction of providing more electives. We had originally wanted to extend the day by 30 minutes, but based on feedback from families, students and staff last year, we tried to go for the happy medium.
      And just so you know, we are still working on the common high school schedule, which will go into effect the same time the start/end times are adjusted: 2017-18 school year. Plans should be coming in April!

  • I think this group is on the right track. Please make the High School time change! All the research proves that this is the right thing to do for students.

    So many high school students are waiving PE and taking online courses to meet requirements that it is a bit ridiculous. The current set school time does not meet the needs for the students to experience all they need before graduation. The timing changes should have a profound effect for them.

    • Thanks for your feedback. We are very excited about these adjustments and believe our high school families, students and teachers will feel great relief and see improvement in many areas of learning, health and life. And stay tuned for changes to our high school schedule, which will give more flexibility and allow for more elective course offerings!

  • Deep gratitude to you Dr. Baker for your long and steady work building consensus around this change. I can only imagine how much time and listening and effort and leadership this took.

    While we know there will be challenges for many families (especially those with elementary school kids) we agree whole heartedly this is the best thing for kids.

    The benefit of 45 minutes more sleep for all of our teenagers and how incredibly essential high school success is for their entire lives makes it worth it.

    And our sympathy to those who will be challenged for the change. Sending all of your support and the hope that on the balance this is the best for the whole community even as it’s challenging for some.

    Tim Burnett
    father of a class of 2020 incoming High School freshman

    • Thanks, Tim! We expected to receive a mixed response on this decision, which you can see is evident in this blog. 🙂 I am very proud to hear from folks who are supporting this new plan, and I absolutely understand the concerns and challenges created when we make these kinds of adjustments. Ultimately, it comes down to our kids. And I believe this plan does right by our students and will benefit them in many ways, from their sleep and health to their learning, attendance and even mood.

  • Dr. Baker-
    Please reconsider this plan. While I agree the high schoolers need a later start time, it should not be at the expense of the elementary school kids. My first grader is in bed by 8 o’clock every night, and we have to drag her out of bed at 7:30 to rush and get her to school by 8:30. I implore you to come up with a more feasible plan.
    Elizabeth Moss

    • I would also like to comment that the reason parents called for more busses was so that we could avoid this very situation. The idea being that if transportation is the issue, let’s fix that so there doesn’t have to be such disparity in school start times among the different levels. The middle school start time of 9:15 would be ideal for elementary and high school as well. My sixth grader wakes up on her own around 7:45 and is always early or on time to school. She is able to start her day without feeling rushed and has time to eat a nutritious breakfast. Meanwhile, my first grader is barely awake while we practically force feed her and rush her to get ready. Mornings for her are stressful and unpleasant. She is in bed by 8pm and asleep by 8:30 at the very latest. With this new schedule you are suggesting, we would need to put her to bed by 7/7:30pm-seriously cutting into precious family time.

      • Thanks for the follow up, Elizabeth. It’s definitely complicated. One reason we’d like to get more buses is to allow only 30 minutes between elementary and high schools’ start times (8 and 8:30). Currently, all of our start and end times need to be staggered at 45-minute intervals.

        You may remember that our original plan included a 7:45 a.m. start time for elementary, which many families said was too early. 8 a.m. is a compromise.

        We could go out for a huge levy to buy a ton of buses to have the whole district start at 8:30 a.m. or 9 a.m. … but then we’d need to find a new space to keep all of these buses (another big expense). Not to mention that we already have a driver shortage, so while I believe we do need some additional buses, I’m not sure that equipping us with double or triple our fleet is the direction we want to go (when there are many other areas, big picture, that we’d like to support with additional funds like programs related to teaching and learning, etc.).

        I’d like to add that I completely understand that this new plan is going to be celebrated by some, while others will feel frustrated. I appreciate you taking the time to offer feedback and your perspective.

    • Thanks for your feedback, Elizabeth. I understand your concerns about the plan, and I’m sorry that you feel it’s at the expense of our elementary kids. The original plan was to start elementary at 7:45 a.m., which we heard was too early for many families. We felt an 8 a.m. start was a good compromise, while trying not to push middle and high school too late. I should also add that what works for one family has challenges for another. Last spring, when we asked for feedback on start and end times, we heard from numerous families who wanted us to start at 7:30 or 7:45 a.m., based on their work schedules. My hope for you and your family (if the elementary timing isn’t quite right) is that you feel relief when your first grader becomes a sixth or ninth grader (probably seems crazy to think about!). 🙂 Thanks for reaching out.

  • Will the district be working with the Y care program to ensure there is still before school care? With an earlier start it shortens the time needed before school which may make it difficult to hire staff that don’t want to work for just 1/2 an hour in the morning. However there are still parents that will need to drop off students at 7. If the Y does not continue before school care is the district prepared to hire support staff to cover this gap?

    • Thanks for your question. We have been working closely with the YMCA, and they have assured us that they have capacity to grow. Currently, we are offering before and after school programs at all 14 elementary schools. The Y is a tremendous community partner, as is the Boys and Girls Club. Both offer affordable, flexible options for families, including sliding scales and scholarships. Making a decision like this one would be very difficult if it wasn’t for their amazing support. Hope this answer brings some relief.

  • Dear Dr. Baker,

    Thank you. At last. Since my children were very young, I have worried about the high school start times. I have driven both kids to high school (seven years total) so that they didn’t have to get up quite so early in order to get to school, and still they were/are staggering with sleepiness and stressed by having to be at school so early. We are all “nightowls” in our family, so my husband and I well understand their difficulty, as we both have struggled any time our work has required us to be up and functioning before 8 a.m. My youngest is now a junior, so barring unforeseen difficulties, will not benefit from the new start times. Still, I am very glad that FINALLY, schools are making this shift. Thank you, thank you, for not giving up.

    • Hi, night owl parent of a Junior, I am wondering how you would feel about this change to the schedule when your children were younger?

    • Thanks for your feedback! I so appreciate hearing from high school families who are in the thick of it and understand not only the difficulty of a 7:45 a.m. start, but also can provide big picture context (even if you won’t personally benefit). Thank you again for your comment.

  • I see the value to the High School students, but I, too, am concerned about the earlier start time for Elementary. Many families in our district are not able to absorb an additional $300 a month for before school care. Additionally, when we added the early release day each week, most after-school care programs increased their costs to account for it. I have to imagine they will raise costs again if the end time is even earlier. I would advise the district to seriously consider alternatives to paid child-care as a demonstration of the Bellingham Promise. (Maybe some high-schoolers’ “passions” are around getting more experience watching kids? 🙂 )

    • Thanks for your feedback and I love where you are going with your thinking! The idea of high school students helping our younger kids is really a wonderful idea that is worth exploring. As I have said in this blog already, we are working closely with the YMCA and Boys and Girls Club, which are two great community partners offering affordable child care. And I’m sure there are many others, too, which we’d be happy to include as options to families who are looking for help. If you contact the Y, do ask about scholarships and sliding scales. They go to great lengths to help families out. Thanks for your comment and suggestion.

  • I am wondering why high schoolers can not start at 10am or 9 30am or even later? One thing for sure is that it does not make sense to have young children start school before 8 30. Yes parents have different schedules but typically the work day that can not be adjusted starts at 8 30 or 9:00, why would young children benefit from having to get on a bus an hour and a half before parents go to work and then be left alone or in child care that much longer in the after noon.

    If high schoolers could benefit from more sleep they can get themselves to school at 9 30 or 10 in the morning and have less at risk time after school. or the buses could run them later in the morning, this schedule makes no sense for families with young children and working parents.

    My 18 year old and many of the high schoolers take running start programs and college classes that are always offered later in the day and that works great for them, there is no reason from a perspective of caring for the kids for having the young ones start earlier.

    Yes it’s true that parents have different schedule and no one schedule works for everyone but surely it makes sense to stay within standard business hours.

    If some children and age groups need more sleep in the morning this is also true of many adults and young children.

  • I like the new times and find it to work better with my work schedule and getting kids to bed. Easier getting my elementary student to bed then my middle schooler who has sports and homework. You may be working with YMCA but the YMCA is definitely not working with parents except to increase prices and do less with students at the elementary schools.
    I am not able to afford YMCA anymore and have to make other arrangements for after school care.

    As a school please consider after school programs or extend the day and offer education on life skills such as food nutrition, additional languages, and finances.

    Thank you.

    • Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience with the YMCA. I understand that it’s not going to suit every family’s needs (kind of like these new start and end times). I love your idea of extending the day and offering more programs like nutrition and finances. A great example of robust and well-attended before and after school programming is Shuksan Middle School. Thanks to the 21st Century Grant, it has increased its staff, programs and student enrollment. It’s really an exemplar school providing more than just bell-to-bell services for families and students who are looking for more than just a 6.5 hour school day.

  • It was obvious a year ago that you’d already made up your mind to do this, despite the many people who disagreed with you.

    I don’t have a problem with starting HS later. I have a problem with you starting elementary school earlier. I know it caters to working parents, but not every family is like that, and some of us have quiet, calm mornings. In fact, I’m sure many of your experts would agree that those are in kids’ best interests.

    This schedule won’t work for us. We won’t “adjust”. Every school day, we hustle our 5 and 7 year old to get dressed, eat, brush teeth and get their shoes and coats on. My children eat a well balanced breakfast, and have a bit of time to do a quiet activity (we don’t do electronics in the morning) before school. Shoving them out the door does not work for them. They need time to wake up, and be ready for breakfast. I refuse to feed them cereal bars that they eat in the backseat on the way to school. We will either have excessive tardies, or will switch to home school. How unfortunate.

    • Thanks for your feedback, LC. The intention is not to put one level against another. Your family’s current before school schedule sounds like it works great for you. I realize it can be challenging to support a change that you feel won’t benefit you or your family – either in the near future or at all. The reality is that many of our students are dropped off at our elementary schools much earlier than 8 a.m. (at our YMCA before school programs) and many eat breakfast at school due to family schedules or other circumstances. The good news is that we have time to prepare for these adjustments; they won’t go into effect until 2017-18. Hope that helps, and again, I appreciate the feedback.

  • “I’m hopeful that as your student progresses through our system, hopefully the later start times at middle and high school will be more convenient.”

    You know what that means to me? It’s you saying that you know it’s not good, but that HS students’ needs are more important. Kids spend SIX years in elementary school, and FOUR in high school.

  • Dr. Baker,
    I agree with you, as well as the wealth of research out there, that this later start time benefits high-schoolers who represent 4 of the 13 grades our district serves. It, however, is a GREAT detriment to K-5 grade students and families (representing 6 grades).

    First of all, this start time is too early for the elementary kids. Just like our current start time is too early for our 4 high school grades, this start is too early for 6 our elementary grades.

    Furthermore, though, this schedule is a burden on working families. Families with two working parents, or single parent families (like my own) are now forced to bear the financial burden the district wouldn’t bear to purchase more buses. Or to have multiple grade levels share useage (like elementary and middle school).

    If your kids get out at 2:30 you are now looking at THREE HOURS of after school care. I have two kids. The going rate for a decent sitter is 11 dollars and hour. That’s 33 dollars a day, 165 dollars a week, 660 dollars a month. We tried the Y. They try their best and they do provide a good program, but to be honest 3 more hours in a gym after school is too much. I’d pick my kids up each day and they’d be in tears before we even reached the car. Aside from the financial burden, you’re now looking at your elementary school age child having a possibly 10 hour day. Saying you’re looking to provide for affordable options doesn’t cut it. They don’t EXIST and even if they did THE DAYS ARE TOO LONG for little kids with working parents. Too early, too long.

    To be frank, it seems as if the district can’t find the money for more buses and so they are passing this burden along to working families. Working families who can’t join committees and make their voices heard. Working families who can’t attend listening sessions and make their voices heard. Families with only high-schoolers benefit from this new plan. Families who can afford to have one parent home benefit. Families with parents working LOSE. And their kids lose out even bigger. And I guarantee there are more of us. The HAVES have more, yet again and the HAVE NOTS pay the price, yet again.

    • FYI – if a transportation levy is passed, it will be passed o just as much to the have nots. Leviess affect property taxes, and when you rent, even an apartment, those increased costs to the property owner are passed on to you.

      Mr Baker shouldn’t be looking at this as all or nothing. The use of WTA and alternative transportation is a viable solution. Many high schoolers can carpool, bike, walk, bus, parent drop off, or the district could likely find a few private buses to rent for bus service for the students farthest from school. The school could also have bikes available for student use, which would be way cheaper than a bus.

    • Thank you for taking the time to comment. I love the level of engagement, but I’m so sorry for your frustration. Again, the YMCA is not going to solve every family’s needs. I completely understand that.
      Transportation is an important and complicating factor for determining our bell times. We are trying to balance our desire to maintain our current level of bus service while tweaking our times so they work a little better for families. As I have mentioned in other comments, our original plan last spring was to start elementary at 7:45 a.m. If we have some additional buses, we can more easily make the 8 a.m. start happen, which is our plan. I know you think this is still too early, but for some families who need to get to work at 7 or 8 a.m., our schools start too late, and those families are utilizing before school care (YMCA or otherwise).
      As for better engaging with families who can’t be on committees or attend meetings, I would love to get your ideas on how we can improve! It’s not easy, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want to hear from you! Feel free to email or call my office; I’d love to talk further. I thank you again for your input.

  • Not a CHANCE would I vote for any transportation levy for this school district! This is almost a joke of a decision by the district. Now while some of us are chasing little ones around the house at the crack of dawn, the high school kids can stay up even later at night and sleep in for that extra 45 minutes…because that’s really going to help! Thanks Bellingham School District, for what might be one of the most ridiculous decisions I’ve seen by you.

    • Hi Josh, sorry you’re feeling frustrated by this decision. I certainly understand that this plan isn’t going to work for every family, but I do hope that you watch the video we included in our messaging yesterday. It’s pretty powerful to hear directly from our students and our local medical professionals. Thanks again for adding your opinion to the mix.

  • I as a parent of a hs kid and elem kid am in favor of this change. However, i am posting here at the request of my hs age son. He is not in favor as it will affect sports and other after school activities pushing them later and off sync with other schools. Pushing all back in his mind means then doing hw later and then still not getting enough sleep. He does like the 8 period days and more choices but feels it could be done keeping start times the same and extending the end time to 2:30.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I understand the concern about the timing of after school activities and athletics. I can’t speak for other districts in the area, but there is a growing interest around the region and state about pushing back high school start time. I’m curious to see if some of our neighbors are considering similar adjustments.

      When we go to a new high school schedule (either seven or eight periods), the hope and intention is not to increase homework for students, rather to allow students to take electives in areas of passion and find more balance in their day. Some of our country’s most respected and competitive universities and colleges are starting to shift their paradigm for admissions and are seeking out well-rounded students (as opposed to only focusing on students with a lot of AP classes, which are great for some kids, but not for all). This topic may be a future blog, so stay tuned. But I really understand the concern and again, we do not want more homework or later evenings (due to homework) to be a consequence of the bell time change or new high school schedule. Details on that coming soon!

  • With two teenagers at Bellingham High, and one in first grade, our family expects to be positively impacted by this decision. You have our compete support. The teens are bleary eyed early in the morning, as all teens seem to be. While our six-year-old is a firecracker, amazingly awake by 7:00 am. Thank you for pushing this through.

    • Thank you for your comment! I appreciate you adding your perspective to the mix, especially as a parent of children in high school and elementary school.

  • What resonates with me?

    1) FINALLY, FINALLY….you have separated out the issue of more sleep from more electives. This is the first communication that focuses solely on high schoolers need for more sleep and changing the start time to accommodate that. I’ve been extremely frustrated that the issue of sleep and the need for more electives have been combined into one discussion. It complicates the issue.

    2) With a 7.5 year age gap between my children, I can see both sides to this tense topic. I appreciate that this plan solves the sleep issue for teens. I think 8 am is better than 7:45 am for the young kids, but, this WILL impact them, potentially negatively. The district owes it to the elementary aged kids to study, monitor, track kids performances in the first few years after this change. Other comments here are accurate and can’t be over-looked: longer hours of after school care, longer days for young kids, less family time (working family or not), and likely less sleep. So the district needs to be willing to make this change with open eyes, understanding how this will potentially impact the learning of a young child.

    3) Why not a 15 minute elementary change instead? 8:15 (Elem), 8:45 (HS); 9:30 (MS)?

    4) And at the end of the day, people don’t like change. But once the change happens, they get used to it.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comments and questions.
      The elective conversation isn’t going away completely; we plan to share our plans for the common high school schedule in the coming weeks. They are somewhat tied – the additional 15 minutes we’re gaining with the new start/end times will help find time/space in students’ schedules to add more classes. Our students and staff also said they would rather make two big changes at the same time, as opposed to staggering them, so in that way they are also related.
      And yes, we will definitely continue to watch, evaluate, monitor, and listen to our system as we roll this new plan out. I can tell you that we do that with any and all programs, schedules, initiatives — it’s the best and most beautiful part of our work: we can always make adjustments (based on our learning, research, etc.); we just need to be open to them!
      Your ideas about shifting our start times 15 minutes later has potential…until we start thinking about release times. We’ve heard from our community that 3:30 for high school release and 4 or 4:15 pm for middle school release are too late for parents and students. Thanks again for sharing your ideas!

  • Greg, I applaud your efforts as you have done something that most HS administrators, teachers, and students knows is the right thing to do.
    There are obviously no silver bullets when a district takes on such a herculean task and there will be objections. I do get discouraged however when people hold a Bond vote over your head when they disagree with ONE change instead of engaging with the issue.
    Keep up the great work as your district is a model of how to make sustainable change.

    • Thanks, Gary! I appreciate the encouragement and support. Hope all is well in Sequim.

  • Regarding the new start and end times for elementary students; the recommended hours of sleep for children ages 5-10 is 10-11 hours. If elementary children are able to get in bed ideally by 8pm (assuming they do not have siblings in middle or high school because their after school activities will prevent that, especially with the new schedule), and then we assume that these children will fall asleep by 9pm, there is no way these kids (which represent the majority of our student base in the district) will be able to get THEIR recommended hours of sleep, and it will be short by several hours. Additionally, these one kids have no ability to self monitor and take naps, adjust their sleep schedule on weekends, cut out an activity, etc that older kids can do. It seems to me we are exchanging one problem for another. Because bell times needed a 45 minute difference in order to stick with the current number of buses, and the new schedule contains a 30 minute difference and the proposal of a levy for new buses, I am confused about the logistics of this area:
    a. If the middle/high school can have a 30 minute difference with the proposal of new buses, why can’t elementary/middle school have the same 30 minute difference? Why can’t the same additional bus scenario be applied?
    b. If the levy does not pass and additional buses/drivers are not attainable, what is the solution? Because the new schedule has already rolled out without the problem solving in place. I worry that if this levy does not pass, then the next step will be to start elementary schools in the 7 o’clock hour which recently created an outrage when it was proposed. If that is the long-term solution, if a levy does not pass, it seems to me that the elementary students who are already sacrificing their sleep to “gift” it to the high school students will suffer even more.

    In effect, this creates a house with no foundation but we will not be able to see the ill effects of this for 10 years.

    • Thanks for your input. You bring up some great points. It’s disheartening that this plan is being viewed as an “elementary vs. high” debate. That is not the intention. Based on our geography, population and current level of bus service, one grade level has to go first, and based on what we’ve read, learned, seen and heard, we’ve decided elementary should be that group. There are many arguments to be made based on any one family’s circumstances (parent work schedule, student lessons/activities, sibling schedules, specific sleep cycles/tendencies, religious implications, etc….the list goes on!) that this may not be the best fit. I completely understand that, and I’m sorry if this new plan is causing any hardship for you.

      I’m happy to talk to you (or anyone who’s interested) about this plan and our rationale. I love the blog, but it has its limitations. Feel free to give me a call or we can set up a meeting.

  • I am a parent of an elementary kid and a MS kid and I am very happy with the new start times. No schedule is perfect but as an educator of teens I agree that getting them more sleep must be the first priority. Thank you so much for taking on this important issue.

    • Thanks for your feedback! Yes, I agree that finding a schedule that is perfect for all is impossible (otherwise, we’d pursue it!). Thanks for your encouragement and support.

  • Your video only focuses on the sleep of older kids. What effect is this going to have on younger children who will now be forced to wake up before they normally would? And what effect will this have on the parents who have to help them get ready? My kindergarten aged child gets the pediatrician recommended 11- 12 hrs a night. She goes to bed at 8:30pm, so that means she is still asleep some mornings at 8:30am. Why does she have to get woken up (and by association me–because what 6 year old is going to get up and get ready by themselves) early. Is her sleep not as valued as that of our teenagers? Mornings are already a stressful time for most families with young children. Why burden them further by making them have to get to school earlier?

    • You bring up great points. I’m sorry that the new start time at elementary may not be ideal for your family. As I’ve said before on this blog, there is no perfect schedule (though I wish there was!), and because no perfect schedule exists, there will be some who are inconvenienced by any schedule or change.

      In the video you may have heard some of our pediatricians describe that teenagers have a different sleep cycle than younger kids…adolescents wake up about two hours later than our younger kids. So starting school earlier for our youngest kids makes sense. Now that might mean some kids need to go to bed earlier; that decision though is up to each parent. Many younger kids though go to bed say at 7:30 and wake up at 6:30 just fine on their own. I do understand that this is not every student and every family.

      Regarding mornings being stressful for families with young children, I totally agree, although the reasons vary. For example, there are many families whose stress is due to our current elementary school starting time of 8:30 – it is way too late for them and their family. For some, their kids are up early and ready to go! For other families, parents need to get to work in the morning, and thus are dropping their kids off at our schools as early as 6:30 in the morning. So the earlier school starts, the better. This all leads to the same conclusion that there is no perfect schedule. But what is clear is the medical research re: adolescents and their sleep cycle and the need to have them start later. With that comes better attendance, higher achievement, less obesity, fewer car accidents, etc…

      Thank you for taking the time to share your feedback. We will continue to try and find as many win-win solutions to all this…thanks for staying engaged.

      • I agree that no schedule is going to be perfect for everyone, but you are making the schedule “work” for 4 grades (Freshman through Seniors in high school), while making the schedule not work for 6 grades (k-5). Why not just shift the entire schedule later? Why does high school have to swap with elementary? If the athletic fields are all going to have lights, what difference will it make if the high school goes until later in the afternoon? You talk about a win-win solution, wouldn’t a later start time for everyone be just that?

        • Hi Sarah, thanks for taking the time to comment on this blog. I agree that having everyone start late would be great in many ways, but we know that afternoon/evening events, contests, practices, jobs and family time are highly valued and are a big priority for students, staff and parents. It comes down to this: one level has to start first. Between medical research, expert advice (local and national) and anecdotal reports from parents, elementary aged students seem to be more naturally wired to go to bed early, as opposed to middle and high school students. And because of transportation complexities, we need about 45 minutes (give or take) between start and end times between levels. It’s also important to note that many elementary families are excited for the earlier start time, as it will work better for their families and work schedule. We have students being dropped off at our schools as early as 6:45 AM due to families needing to get to work. I hope I’ve answered your questions, and thanks again for adding your voice to this discussion.

    • Great points. The district and Mr. Baker are making this about the medical findings of a single demographic in our schools because it fits their agenda. This has more to do with budgets, school bus routing, etc. The truth is that studies have shown that younger adolescents benefit more from sleep then teenagers.

      Unfortunately, the district and Mr. Baker aren’t placing any consideration of the parents into their equation. The time changes have been pushed against again and again. And despite the hesitation of parent support, they are plowing through with their goal to accommodate, not their public, but their own incentive. Sad.

  • Im a high school student right now and changing start and end times for high school isn’t a very good idea. Getting out an hour later than we do right now will just mean that we have to stay up later to finish homework thus getting the same amount of sleep. For sports our practice times would be reduced to decreasing daylight hours after school, and right now we feel like we have the right amount of practice or even just a little less time than we need. I believe that it wont change the way a high school student will preform.

    • Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. I understand your concerns about after school athletics and daylight, but one thing to keep in mind is our new high school fields will include lighting, which will allow teams to practice later. Installation of Squalicum’s fields will begin this summer, Bellingham is slated to get one in 2017, and Sehome will get its new field when the new high school opens up in 2019. I realize that may not meet all of your immediate needs, but it’s a key part of the bigger picture.

      It’s also important to remember the greater context: Bellingham isn’t alone on adjusting start time later for high school. School districts across our state and the country are listening to medical professionals and research, which says adolescents need more sleep and that starting school at 8:30 a.m. or later is better for learning. High school students have a different sleep cycle than younger students, and by starting school later, even if students get the same amount of sleep as previously, just starting later has been shown to improve health, attendance, graduation rates, and mood, and reduce car accidents.

      On the homework question, it’s a good one and one that really resonates with me and many students and families across our district. As you may know, we’re considering a new common high school schedule to align all four of our high schools on the same schedule. We’ll increase electives and overall class offerings from six to either seven or eight. Our intention with this new schedule is not to increase homework for students but to help provide better balance so that students can take different classes beyond state requirements (anything from art, music, yoga, robotics, etc.). My hope is between our new schedule, adjusted bell time and with 1:1 technology coming that our students will feel less burdened/tired and more energized and enthusiastic about learning and coming to school every day.

  • You need to do more research Greg. You can’t rationalize your poor decision making based mainly on what the American Academy of Pediatrics says and perhaps a few other locals in town. The problem with your research now is that it only focuses on the sleep of adolescents and not with the young children. You are effectively replacing one problem with another just as the article below suggests is a BAD IDEA.

    • Hi Josh,
      Thank you for your additional comments and research. This is an interesting article, and I agree that we don’t want to replace one problem with another. The researcher in this article says more research needs to be done to draw firm conclusions, so it will be something we will keep a close eye on. I understand that you’re not happy with the start and end times changes in 2017-18, and again, it is a very complex balance of many needs and expectations: transportation, parent work hours, students’ sleep/health, after school activities, geography (meaning we have 22 sites to transport kids to) , etc.
      As I had said, unfortunately, a “perfect” schedule does not exist. With every change, even just 15 to 30 minutes, we impact parents and students (and staff, too). And as I have said before, though this may frustrate some, we could change it again! We are always looking to medical professionals, our colleagues in education, feedback from the community and more to improve our schools and system.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  • Hello Dr. Baker. I just want to tell you that you are doing a great job with the schools but the early start for elementary students is not working for us. My son who loved going to school last year tells me every morning now that he hates school and he wants to sleep more and he is tired. We do go to bed early but the waking up before the sun rises is not good. And the more the winter approaches the worst it’s gonna get. Can we please have a poll on the start time of elementary schools. I really don’t think it’s working well at least for my family it’s not.