The Northshore School District (NSD) has finalized its start and dismissal times for the 2019-20 academic school year.
Starting this fall, NSD is moving to a seven-period day for high schools. This change is a result of the state of Washington creating a new graduation requirement of earning 24 credits for the class of 2019 and beyond.
A committee of NSD parents, teachers, staff and administrators was developed in 2018 to assess the requirement’s effect on the district and make the best recommendations for students. After spending a year on the review, the committee made a recommendation for a seven-period day.
In order to accommodate the 24-credit graduation requirements, the district decided to add a seventh class period to the day, as opposed to lengthening a six-period day schedule. Adding a seventh period with a 30-minute increase in the high school day was the best option, according to the committee.
Keeping the bell schedule the same length but having seven rather than six periods would have removed about five-and-a-half weeks of instructional time off each class, according to the committee. Because of this, the district and teachers’ union negotiated a longer day.
In consultation with the Northshore Education Association and community members, the district announced the 30 additional minutes would be accomplished by adding 15 minutes to the beginning and end of the high school day in order to minimize the impact on high school students. This decision would keep the high school start and dismissal times as close as possible to the times adopted in the spring of 2019.
Effecting all NSD schools
Since the district runs a four-tier transportation system that spans 60 miles, the new afternoon bus pick-up times at high schools are expected to result in later bus pick-up times for middle and elementary school students.
According to NSD, the best solution was to move the start and dismissal times for most elementary and middle schools by five to 10 minutes. Without this adjustment, a significant number of buses would arrive 15-20 minutes after school dismissal time, which would require a significant increase in supervision by staff after dismissal.
Working on improvements
The schedule changes may prove challenging for students and families. Between the high school start times being 15 minutes earlier, imposing on valuable student sleep and parents’ work schedules to be able to drop off and pick up their students, many parents and students are not happy with the new start and dismissal times.
“We do understand this will result in a shift for families as well as staff,” a district release states.
NSD said it plans to work to make steps toward start times and transportation schedules that are the most beneficial for students. Administrators will do a mid-year review to determine if any adjustments can be made at that time. NSD has also contracted with a transportation consulting company to investigate both short-term and long-term opportunities for improvements to the district’s transportation systems.
“As this is a project that has been active for over 10 years in our district, we have looked at many different scenarios and options over these many years,” NSD Superintendent, Dr. Michelle Reid, said on her district blog, Thursday Thoughts, published Aug. 23. “Currently, I am working with a technical work group, comprised of community members and staff along with a traffic engineering consultant to aggressively craft scenarios and test them over the course of the current school year.”
Reid said she will be making a mid-year report to the school board in January on any possible adjustments that can be made without disrupting students and staff for the remainder of the current school year.
“By the end of the current school year, I have been directed to provide the board a start time plan for the 2020-21 school year that is healthy for all of our students based on the best research available to us,” she wrote on her blog.
In the fall of 2020, NSD will be working toward several changes that will contribute to transportation improvements, including the opening of Elementary #21 and the Skyview/Canyon Creek, regionalized elementary advanced placement and elementary music in the regular school day.
“Once we are able to open these schools, and thus have space to move our elementary music programs into the school day, as well as more regionally distribute students in special programs, our transportation routing and student time on our buses will likely be positively mitigated,” Reid wrote in her blog. “We are planning a current and updated start time landing page on our website that will keep you updated as well as I will be making monthly reports to the board on our progress.”
Reid encourages parents and families to submit ideas on things to utilize in the district’s technical work group to the web page access tool.