A request for later start times in the South Whidbey School District was shot down by the South Whidbey School Board, at least the foreseeable future.
During a public comment period at a March 22 meeting, Vincent Nattress, a parent and co-owner of Bayview restaurant The Orchard Kitchen, requested the board consider later start times for middle school and high school students. Nattress said that the Seattle School District implemented later start times in 2015, while also adding that the “preponderance” of the science indicates that it would improve attendance, test scores, behavior and that adolescents need more sleep.
“They tend to go to bed at the same time regardless,” Nattress said. “Starting later means they get more sleep.”
Nattress thought the change could coincide with middle school students’ transition to South Whidbey High School following the closure of Langley Middle School at the end of the year.
“Because of the closing of the middle school, we’re actually going to end up with a greater percentage of our kids starting at an earlier time,” Nattress said. “We’re moving in the wrong direction.”
School Board Chairwoman Linda Racicot said the idea has come up in previous discussions. Assistant Superintendent of Business Dan Poolman said it is a “program issue.” If school starts at a later time, student athletes are then vulnerable to losing an hour of “instruction” when they travel for away games and matches. Racicot said the board has not given up on the idea and that it remain a discussion item by the board.
“It’s a big topic,” Racicot said. “We’re very aware of the benefits of it.”
Board Director Shawn Nowlin suggested Nattress band together with other parents and begin working on ways to avoid problems with sports scheduling and other similar issues that would prevent later start times. They could then request a meeting with Superintendent Jo Moccia, who can then place it a workshop agenda.