2014-15 Transportation and Start/End Time Changes: What you need to know

This week the transportation department for Seattle Public School proposed some changes to transportation standards that affect families at TOPS.  You can read the entire proposal here.

The relevant changes are:

  1. Ending transportation “grandfathering” for all students who are out of the Washington Middle School transportation service area. Here is a map of the current service area. Due to boundary changes, this area will expand to include much of Downtown and South Lake Union. If you live outside the Washington Middle School transportation service area, but receive bus service at present, you should expect to be contacted by the Transportation department notifying you that you will lose bus service in the fall of 2014.
  2. Changing bell times for TOPS: Buses to arrive by 7:35 and depart starting at 2:30. Bell times are typically 10-15 minutes later/earlier than those arrival/departure times. (Next year’s exact school start and end times will be announced this spring.)

TOPS is not the only K8 school whose bell times are changing. Salmon Bay, Pinehurst, Jane Addams K8 and Pathfinder will also move to earlier start times. However, no other elementary school students in the district will start this early in the morning, and some K8 schools will move to a 9:15 start.

The district claims that these and other changes to transportation service standards will save the district $3.4M, although the district has not released information on the specific cost savings of five K8 schools moving to the earliest tier of bus arrival times Also note that they do not quantify what costs will be incurred by the collateral damage some of these changes might cost in safety, academic achievement or other logistical challenges.

Site Council has been aware for some years about the ending of transportation grandfathering and have advocated tirelessly to continue to serve our students who entered TOPS with a promise of bussing (TOPS class of 2018 and earlier). We are now directing our focus to helping families deal with the consequences of this impending loss of transportation. A Site Council working committee currently is focusing on identifying and communicating with affected families. We are also exploring alternate transportation options such as carpooling and Metro bus passes. We will continue to share information with families yet this year as we learn more. The working committee does want to point out that if you don’t live within the 2014-15 Washington Middle School service area, students can still receive transportation to or from any child care address that is within this area. For example, if you live on Queen Anne, but your students attend a child care center/after school program in South Lake Union, they can receive transportation to or from that address. Pick up and drop off addresses may be different. If you have a specific issue, please contact: .

We also encourage you to share how this change is affecting your family directly with the School Board and SPS Administration (contact details below).

While the majority of our students live in the Washington Middle School transportation service area and will be eligible for bussing next year, everyone will be affected by bell times. When we surveyed families two years ago (when the district was proposing moving from 9:15 to our current 8:20 start time), respondents were split on their preferences. However, moving start times to earlier than 8 AM poses some real challenges that we have identified.

  1. Morning safety concerns: For our kids with longer travel times, they could be waiting for their bus in the dark much of the school year. Many of our students will be walking to school and crossing busy streets in the dark.
  2. After school supervision: Earlier end times mean working parents will need to arrange longer periods of after school care or supervision. Middle school students may have a gap in time between dismissal and after-school sports.  This will be particularly difficult for those families not eligible for bussing. And fee-based onsite child care at TOPS may not be able to absorb increased capacity needs, leaving families with significant challenges in finding appropriate supervision.
  3. Sports: The district is proposing splitting K8 schools between the very earliest and very latest possible bell times. This may have an adverse effect on intermural sports leagues for our Middle School students.
  4. Student Achievement: Research shows that children may not be ready to learn so early in the morning.
  5. Family time: With early start times, combined with after school activities and working hours, students may have very little time during the school week to spend with families, getting parental engagement on homework, etc.

If any or all of these concerns resonate, we do encourage people to share these or other concerns with the School Board and appropriate Central Administration staff before the Board finalizes this proposal in a vote on January 22nd. Comments received in the next few days are more likely to be circulated than comments arriving shortly before the meeting. Below are the relevant contacts and a sample letter. We also encourage you to sign-up to testify at the January 22nd school board meeting. Timing and protocols for speaking are available via the link below.

Finally, if you believe that the Site Council should consider other responses, please reach out to your Site Council representative (the person who forwarded this memo). If you plan to testify, please let your representative know as we have some tips for testimony that may maximize the effectiveness of your advocacy.

Contact information and testimony process

 

Sample letter (to be customized)

Dear School Board Directors:

I write to ask you not to vote in favor of the proposed 2014-15 Transportation Service Standards until the Transportation Department provides data regarding other possible methods to reduce the costs of transportation that would be more educationally sound and safer for students than moving to a three tier schedule.

Beyond the impacts to my own family <that include…>. I am concerned about the impact this will have to all students whose schools will start before 8 AM. Among these concerns are:

  1. Morning safety concerns: For our kids with longer travel times, they could be waiting for their bus in the dark much of the school year. Many of our students will be walking to school and crossing busy streets in the dark.
  2. After school supervision: Earlier end times mean working parents will need to arrange longer periods of after school care or supervision. Middle school students may have a gap in time between dismissal and after-school sports. And fee-based onsite child care at affected schools may not be able to absorb increased capacity needs, leaving families with significant challenges in finding appropriate supervision.
  3. Sports: The district is proposing splitting K8 schools between the very earliest and very latest possible bell times. This may have an adverse effect on intermural sports leagues for Middle School students.
  4. Student Achievement: Research shows that children may not be ready to learn so early in the morning. <Link to any research here you find compelling>
  5. Family time: With early start times, combined with after school activities and the most common working hours, students may have very little time during the school week to spend with families, getting parental engagement to support academic achievement and overall childhood development.

Until such time as the district and its transportation department can address these concerns and have a plan in place to mitigate, I  ask again that you vote against the proposed 2014-2015 transportation services standards as they related to pre-8AM bell times and a three tier system for K8 schools.

Sincerely,

MAP & DIRECTIONS - CONTENT MANAGER - TECHNICAL HELP

TOPS at Seward - Seward Public School - 2500 Franklin Ave E - Seattle, WA 98102
Main Office: (206) 252-3510

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Header photo by Susie Fitzhugh