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New start times for Spokane schools approved

Lots of students will need to adjust their alarm clocks this fall.

Spokane Public Schools’ board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to move elementary school start times earlier and push back middle school start times.

The new elementary school schedule will be 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., starting a half-hour earlier and ending at the same time.

“Starting earlier follows a family-friendly schedule,” board member Deana Brower said.

For middle schools, the new schedule will be 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., so those students will start 15 minutes later than their current schedule.

The district’s high school start times will remain at 8 a.m.

The schedule change is the result of the district’s decision last year to extend K-6 students’ school day by 30 minutes.

“The goal was to extend the elementary school day. It is sort of sin we didn’t do that sooner,” board member Rocky Treppiedi said.

Adding more teaching time for elementary students meant making other adjustments.

“Every nook and cranny is affected by this,” Superintendent Shelley Redinger said.

By adjusting start times, officials corrected some long-standing problems, such as middle school students waiting up to 45 minutes to take a bus home. Officials hope the new schedules, as well as reworked bus routes, will allow more students to arrive in time for breakfast.

Some students will have to walk farther to bus stops. The typical walk next year will be three- to six-tenths of a mile, compared with one- to two-tenths now.

Although some sleep researchers suggest high school students are the ones who could benefit from a later start, district officials are satisfied with when high school classes begin. They note that their high school start times are close to the national average.

“We don’t have a 7 a.m. start time for high schools; our high school starts at a reasonable time,” Treppiedi said.

Parents will receive a letter explaining the changes within the next week, followed by a newsletter and several verbal and electronic reminders.

Last time the district changed school start times was in 1989, said Mark Anderson, associate superintendent.

The only downside, Anderson said, is “change is hard.”