I recently shared with you our plan for the 2017-18 early dismissal schedule. Since we have new school start and end times for next school year (starting Aug. 23), we will have new early dismissal times. We have spent many hours exploring numerous possibilities for our early dismissal schedule; the information below represents our best thinking, given our requirements and parameters.

For our youngest students and elementary school families, a consistent weekly early dismissal is important for safety and family/work routines. Early dismissals provide important learning time for our staff, for collaboration and contractual planning time. Therefore, the elementary early dismissal will be at 12:45 p.m. every Thursday. Middle school early dismissals will be at 12 p.m. and occur ten times over the school year. High school early dismissals will be at 12:15 p.m. and occur two times over the school year.

  • Elementary School 1:15 p.m. every Thursday 12:45 p.m. every Thursday 12:45 p.m. every Thursday, except some buses may be a bit later on days when middle schools also have early dismissal. Staff will supervise students until buses arrive.
  • Middle School 12:15 p.m. ten Thursdays, once per month 12 p.m. ten Thursdays, once per month 12 p.m. ten Thursdays, once per month
  • High School 11:15 a.m. twice per year (day before Thanksgiving and last day of school) 12:15 p.m. twice per year (day before Thanksgiving and last day of school) In the fall, we plan to work closely with our high school bus riders to determine how many students need afternoon school bus transportation on these two days because our school buses aren’t able to arrive until 1:30 p.m. We plan to explore alternative options for getting students home on these two days (WTA passes, carpooling, etc.). If we aren’t able to determine workable options, 1:30 p.m. will be our default solution with open gym, library access and supervision provided until school buses arrive.

Your patience is greatly appreciated as we work through the logistics. We will continue to adjust and improve as we move forward.

What do you think of our current plan for early dismissals? What questions do you still have?

I look forward to hearing from you!

Comments (18)

  • Just a quick question on the schedule. Is there a reason why teachers work days are not coordinated with holiday weekends? For example January 15th 2018 is MLK day and the following week there is a purple Friday on the 24th. It seems logical to have the purple Friday on January 12, so that families can go somewhere for a four day weekend. The same thing happens in February. Presidents day is on Feb 19 and the purple Friday is Feb 9th. If the purple Friday was the next Friday it would create another 4 day weekend. I strongly believe that routine is important to learning new concepts, however the Bellingham school district schedule is incredibly choppy. Thanks for your time answering this question.

    • Hi Micah, good question and thank you for the feedback. We originally tried to come up with a logic of when Staff Learning Days (aka Purple Fridays) landed, for example have them all be the second Friday of the month. But that didn’t fully make practical sense for a variety of reasons, including government holidays and the end of the semester in January (which typically occurs at the end of the month).

      One reason not to have the Staff Learning Fridays attached to a holiday weekend is that many of our teachers are also parents. If all those teachers/parents take an extended trip/weekend and aren’t able to attend the professional development, we have defeated the purpose. Currently, our professional development sessions are well attended by our certificated staff (teachers), so it’s definitely a balancing act.

      But again, thanks for your thoughts – we could certainly try to connect more of those Fridays to longer holiday weekends and see how it works.

  • Question – what is the most recent update on whether the YMCA will plan to provide morning care or not on site for the Elementary Schools? It was once mentioned that the YMCA would not be providing morning care and only providing afternoon care and that school staff would be supervising playground at 7:30 like normal, a half hour before the start of school. This would be an advantage to know before hand when families ask about childcare before school. Thank You.

    • Hi Laura,
      Great question. For next school year, all elementary schools will have student supervision starting at 7:30 a.m. Before-school YMCA childcare is currently offered at some elementary schools, but not all. The number of students currently participating before 7:30 a.m. ranges from approximately 1-12 at any given site. For 2017-18, we are planning to partner with the YMCA to offer childcare before 7:30 a.m. at a few school locations to be determined based on need. We ask families to contact their school office with childcare needs before 7:30 a.m. next school year to share your needs to help us determine site locations. And the Y plans to provide after-school programs at all sites.
      Hope this helps!

  • As you’ve probably heard, the early release days and teacher-work-days in the Bellingham School district are a hardship especially for low-income families. When both parents need to work, it rarely possible to get time off on a regular basis, and the extra childcare costs money and is difficult to arrange. I’m a teacher, and I agree that it is important to work in time for teacher work and training, however, it would also work to have shorter school days overall so teachers have more time on a daily basis. This would be an adjustment, but it could be made just as effective. I don’t need a reply to this comment, just want to voice this concern.

  • I am curious if when you were setting the bus schedules, if there was a reason why the school hours couldn’t be set so that students would not have to “hang out” in the bus zone waiting for their buses to arrive after school? With the current schedule all the buses appear to have enough time to complete their routes and arrive to their next school on time.

    • Hi Annique – thanks for posting your question. I’m sure others have the same wonders. We hope to have our bus schedules for the 2017-18 year “live” in Infofinder around August 10. And it’s important to keep in mind that our routes are not set in stone; we usually go through a two-week period in the beginning of a new school year (sometimes longer) when routes are subject to change based on school enrollment and how many students end up wanting to use our buses. We will be sending out messaging about updated routes later this spring.

      Your other question about kids “hanging out” to wait for the bus: I’m assuming you’re referring to the ten early dismissal days when some elementary students’ buses will be delayed. In order for our drivers to reliably/smoothly transition between the different levels, they need at least 45 minutes; 60 minutes is ideal. Middle school early dismissal next year will be at 12 p.m., which means things will be a little tight for some (but not all) elementary buses departing at 12:45 p.m. Our school district is approximately 100 square miles. Some areas we service require more than the allocated time provided to deliver students and get back to the next school. This is why at times the bus is unable to be back to school at or before dismissal times.

      I’ll take a stab at what could be a follow up question: “why not have middle school dismiss earlier on those days?” While we have made bell time adjustments at both the elementary and high school levels for next year, our middle schools are maintaining their current schedule and start at 9:15 a.m., and we feel students and teachers should have about three hours together for teaching and learning. I know this answer may not completely satisfy everyone, but please know that we will continue to look for ways to improve this plan as we move forward.

      • I’m not sure if this was answered but I agree with Annique’s concern about the middle school kids (specifically Shuksan in my case) who get out daily at 3:45 but the buses are not due to arrive until 4:00. Will they be supervised and how? Or what options will they have to keep them out of trouble during this time. Seems like a pretty big concern that has not been addressed…at least that I’ve heard of. Thanks

        • Hi Meredith, Thanks for the question.

          You are correct, some middle school students who ride the bus will get picked up a little later from school (closer to 4 p.m.). Currently at many middle schools, there are delays for buses due to congestion at the schools because of parent pick-up. Even when we arrive on schedule, we can be held up departing due to congestion. Next year, parent pick-up will occur at 3:45 p.m. and the congestion will be cleared out in time for buses to get to school, get loaded, and depart more timely. Although we are scheduled to arrive a bit later, I believe our departure process will be expedited making the actual time delay more like 5 minutes, not 15 minutes.

          As far as supervision, yes, we will have it at every middle school from 3:45 p.m. (the time students are dismissed) to 4 p.m. As far as specifics, it will depend on each school (where students congregate, location for bus pick up, etc.). I hope this helps and thanks for the question.

  • The only positive about this schedule change is the supposed extra sleep the high schoolers will get.

    It is otherwise a giant mess, that seems poorly executed and is a disservice to many families, while you tout the benefit to ONE group of kids and ignore all those who are unhappy. Continued disappointment, Dr. Baker. THIS is the best you can come up with?

    • hi Laura, I’m sorry you feel our new bell times are a disservice to families. What we have learned throughout this process is that a “perfect” schedule (meaning one that meets the needs of all students, families and staff), does not exist. One start or end time might be a sweet spot for some families, but it causes scheduling scrambles for others. For example, the current 8:30 a.m. elementary start time may work for some families, but there are others who wish we opened our doors at 6:45 a.m.

      I’d just add for perspective that our district covers 100 square miles and includes 22 schools and one family partnership. It employs 1300 people and serves over 11,000 students – all of whom have varying wishes/opinions about what time our classes start and end. We have the added challenge of transporting students of all ages and all needs, and our drivers need at least 45 minutes (ideally an hour) between levels, which means sometimes getting creative with start and dismissal times, while prioritizing instructional time for students.

      I mean this sincerely, if you have some ideas on how to improve our current plans, I would love to hear them. This blog is a terrific platform for responding to questions and concerns, but I also really enjoy meeting and/or talking on the phone with our parents and staff to hear thoughts and ideas. Let me know if you’d like to set up a time to discuss ideas or feel free to share them on the blog.

  • Asking for ideas on improving the plan now is like asking for ideas after you’ve crashed your car and are uninsured. You’ve already made these decisions and there is very little that can be done to improve them because what’s done is done.

    I’ve said it all along — that your intention was to do this, regardless of input. And you proved me right. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’ve had some great ideas and changes for our schools. But you also get other ideas and don’t seem to really want to hear anything but the positives.
    It disappoints me that you have made the decisions you have, touting the benefits TO ONE GROUP OF STUDENTS, while ignoring the impacts to the others. That doesn’t jive with me as a core value of the Bellingham Promise.

  • hi Laura, I’m sorry you feel that way. While we have some logistical challenges, I believe the overall benefit to our kids by these changes is well supported by the medical community and will make a positive impact.
    I try hard to be as transparent and inclusive in decision-making as I can. These changes were never forgone conclusions and came after many, many months of research, engagement and discussions. In the end, when a decision is made, I know that some folks agree and others may not. If you’d ever like to sit down and talk, please let me know.

  • I am curious about the 2 early dismissal days for High School Students, with buses being so much later. What level of student supervision will there be for those students in Life Skills/Community Transitions?

    • hi Kristy, thanks for your question. We will have staff available to supervise any and all students who need to stay at school until the later buses arrive. That said, we plan to work closely with our high school students to determine how many need afternoon school bus transportation on these two days and explore alternative options, including WTA passes and carpooling. If we aren’t able to find workable options, 1:30 p.m. will be our default solution with open gym, library access and supervision provided until school buses arrive. Hope this helps!

  • Late start would be so much better than early dismissal! Kids (at least mine) hate getting up early for school as it is so getting them up to only go to school for a few hours doesn’t make much sense.

    • Hi Sierra, thanks for taking the time to comment. Our calendar is developed with lots of input from families and staff, so here’s a little history on early dismissal vs. late start. Weekly early dismissals for elementary school have been a part of the routines of our elementary schools since fall 2011 and provide valuable staff learning time as well as time to meet with families; this seems to work better in the afternoons than in the mornings for a lot of reasons. As always, we are trying to balance a number of competing preferences and needs, and we have found that early dismissals provide more routine for students and staff, are less disruptive to learning, and allow us to continue to offer services like breakfast. That said, we regularly seek feedback on our calendar through surveys, so please continue to share your thoughts. You can see the 2018-2019 early dismissal dates at our calendar here: https://bellinghamschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Calendar20182019.pdf