Everett parents want school times that benefit own families

The results of the Everett School District’s online survey on school start times are in: Most parents prefer change that doesn’t affect their own kids.

Parents of middle and high school students want to keep the status quo. Parents of elementary school kids want the middle and high school kids to start 20 minutes earlier rather than have their kids start a little later.

Overall there were more than 5,000 responses to the survey. Parents had a week to repond to the survey, which closed April 16.

“We knew people were interested,” said Mary Waggoner, school district spokeswoman. “Many people prefer changes which have the least impact on them, which this tells us very clearly.”

A decision on whether any changes will be made in school schedules isn’t expected until June. School officials are waiting to see how much money the Legislature budgets for public education, Waggoner said.

Kim Guyman, who heads the Everett School Board Project, a parents advocacy group, said she was pleased that so many people responded to the survey.

“It proves to me that people are interested in input,” Guyman said. But said she heard some criticism that the survey was too confusing.

A lot of parents were surprised to find the school district considering three time change options in addition to leaving schedules the same, Guyman said. “In my opinion, it sort of muddied the waters.”

Guyman said she was surprised by the support from elementary school parents for starting high school 20 minutes earlier, at 7:10 a.m. She said she couldn’t help wondering:

“You think your kindergarteners will never go to high school? That’s early.”

The school district, with 18,700 students, posted the online survey as it tries to figure out changes it can make in school start and dismissal times for the upcoming school year. The goal is to find a way to save money being spent on transportation costs.

Traffic congestion is making it difficult for some bus routes to stay on schedule. Some of the routes most severely affected are those along Casino Road, Evergreen Way, 128th Street SW and the Silver Lake areas, Waggoner said.

The school district added three new bus routes this year and modified four others at Cascade and Jackson high schools to help ease scheduling problems.

Those changes cost the district about $163,000 — money Waggoner said the school district would like to spend in the classroom next year if changes could be made in school start and end times.

“Our first goal is educating the kids,” Waggoner said. “The continual drain of transportation dollars from the classroom is something we look at really hard every year.”

The district is spending $7.2 million this year for transportation, which requires taking $2.5 million from the district’s operating levy, she said.

But as the survey showed, it would be hard to find a way to make all parents happy with any scheduling change.

If no schedule changes were made “you would make most middle and high school students happy,” Waggoner said.

But the survey showed that most elementary school families would prefer some change, either starting their school or middle or high schools earlier. Of the four options, the one with the least support was starting elementary school 10 minutes later.

Survey participants also made suggestions on other steps the school district could take to ease congestion, such as only allowing people to make right turns out of parking lots or getting help directing traffic at schools, Waggoner said.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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