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Superintendent Announces Decision on Bell Times for 2017-2018 School Year

Posted by Elizabeth Egan on November 10, 2016
Dear ISD Community,
After receiving a few hundred emails during this last input period and after many months of community engagement around school start and end times, I am announcing that the Issaquah School District will be changing Bell Times beginning with the 2017-18 school year. As I have previously stated, I believe that starting high schools and middle schools thirty-five minutes later will benefit the health and safety of our students.
Beginning with the start of school next fall, our high schools will start at 8:00 a.m., middle schools at 8:10 a.m. and elementary schools at 9:10 a.m. These times may be slightly adjusted to accommodate transportation needs, but no school will start earlier than 8:00 a.m. or end later than 4:00 p.m.
A strong majority of the emails we received supported the idea of adopting our latest Bell Times proposal. However, I want to acknowledge the following items of concern voiced during this input period: 
  • A number of parents and staff feel the Wednesday dismissal time is too late in the day. Our Wednesday schedule is negotiated between the District and the Issaquah Education Association (IEA). I have shared this information with IEA for future discussions.
  • Currently, six of our elementary schools start at 9:15 a.m. and nine start at 8:30 a.m. For those elementary schools that will start later under this change, parents have expressed concern about the impact this later start time will have on their work schedules and child care situations.
  • Some in the community have shared their disappointment that we are not following the first schedule proposal that inverted our elementary and secondary school schedules and started our secondary schools after 8:30 a.m. which is the recommended start time from several of the sleep studies. We also received a handful of emails from individuals that are quite skeptical of the sleep studies in general.
Taking all of this into account, I believe that the new Bell Times strike the right balance for our community and all of our unique geographic and traffic realities. While this change does not fully meet the recommendations of the medical community, starting our secondary schools thirty-five minutes later will be a positive, healthy change for our students. I encourage all of our families to have conversations at home about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep as part of an overall approach to healthy living. 
Thank you again for the attention and input into this important decision and for sending us such wonderful children to work and learn with every day.

Ron Thiele
Issaquah School District