Seattle Votes for Later School Start Times

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Seattle, Washington just became one of the largest school districts in the country to switch its school start times past 8:30 AM in an attempt to allow students to sleep in later. The Seattle school board voted to switch times based on a large collection of research that indicates that providing young people with the opportunity for more sleep can improve learning and overall health.

The vote, which was six-to-one, will change the start time for all of Seattle’s high schools to 8:45 AM during the next school year (2016-2017.) Many, but not all, middle and elementary schools will follow suit. Others will start at either 7:55 or 9:35, presumably in order to stagger the bus schedules.

Beginning this summer, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began urging schools to consider later start times. In doing so, the CDC joined other experts advocating for the same thing, including the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s essential that young, still-developing teenagers average between 8.5 to 9.5 hours of sleep a night. However, a CDC study found:

That high schools that begin as late as 8:55 a.m. have 66 percent of students getting eight or more hours of sleep on school nights, which is the recommended amount for high school students. Schools that begin at 7:30 a.m. have an average of only 34 percent of students obtaining eight or more hours of sleep on school nights.

That makes a serious difference in how students learn throughout the day. According to a University of Minnesota study:

Researchers analyzed data from more than 9,000 students at eight high schools in Minnesota, Colorado, and Wyoming and found that shifting the school day later in the morning resulted in a boost in attendance, test scores, and grades in math, English, science, and social studies. Schools also saw a decrease in tardiness, substance abuse, and symptoms of depression. Some even had a dramatic drop in teen car crashes.

However, not everyone is happy with the changes–particularly the parents of the children who will be in one of the middle or elementary schools that will start at 9:35 AM. But pressure from the community to change the start times in a way that benefited as many children as possible seemed to outweigh the hesitations. Seattle hopes that by being one of the largest school districts in the country to make the switch to later start times it will start a trend and show other large school districts that it’s doable–maybe more will jump on the bandwagon for the 2016-2017 school year.

Learn More: School Start Times: Do More ZZZs Equal More As? 


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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