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Education

District to seek public input on school start times

Sammamish Review of Sammamish, Washington

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The Issaquah School Board wants the public's help in deciding whether or not any changes in starting and stopping times for the local school day are desirable.

They also need to determine if changes are feasible.

"There certainly is a lot of energy around it," said Superintendent Ron Thiele at an Issaquah School Board meeting Oct. 28.

Thiele added that if the board wants to put changes in place for the 2016-2017 school year, they need to make a decision on the topic by March 2016.

With that in mind, Thiele announced the district will conduct a survey of residents to be completed by consultants Thoughtexchange.

The district is planning a dry run of the Thoughtexchange process next month.

Basically, according to Thiele, Thoughtexchange asks for online comments from the public on a given topic. Later, the public is invited back to the company's website to log in and rate the various comments using a star system. The public is asked to consider the comments in terms of their importance or the voters' belief in those comments.

The actual start/stop time survey will take place in January, Thiele said. He added he is hoping for high levels of participation in order to gain a clear picture of the thoughts of the community.

"It's been an issue, really for the last year," said L. Michelle, district spokeswoman. Several surrounding districts have discussed, or are in the process of discussing, later start times, she added.

The main argument is that school starts too early, especially for teenagers, who may simply need more sleep. Michelle talked about disrupting natural rhythms.

At the recent board meeting, one mother, joined by her daughters, talked about how one was home-schooled, while the other catches a bus at 7:05 a.m. every weekday. That daughter gets up as late possible, about 6:40 a.m.

More importantly, that daughter is often grumpy and just not herself, her mother said. The daughter regained her balance, so to speak, during a vacation, when she was able to sleep as much as she wanted and needed.

The mother noted the second daughter sleeps later daily and generally seems in better health, both physically and mentally.

Still, the student population's possible need for sleep can't be the only consideration, Thiele said. There are numerous operational questions. School start and stop times can have huge effects on traffic, for example:

And Thiele noted the question really is one of starting and ending the school day. By law, schools have to offer so many hours of instruction. If the school day starts later, it also must end later.

"What are the implications operationally?" Michelle asked later. "How do we run our buses?"

Those questions and others need to be answered prior to any decision being made, she added.

"We'll be working on all this pretty quickly," Michelle said.



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Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



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