Frequently Asked Questions

What time will my child’s school start in 2017-18?
On November 22, 2016, the School Board approved a plan to roll start and end times forward by 25 minutes for the 2017-18 school year. On March 17, 2017, the district posted site-by-site bell times. See the Current Status page for details.

Why are start times changing in 2017-18?
The School Board passed Resolution 714 on January 27, 2015, stating that no high school in Northshore School District (NSD) shall start before 8 a.m. by the 2017-18 school year. The Start Times Task Force (STTF) was directed to oversee the options for how this directive can be implemented. On November 22, 2016, the School Board revised Resolution 714 in order to allow high school to start at 7:45 a.m. or later and approved a recommendation to move start times forward 25 minutes. Visit our main page to learn more and view the start times that will take effect in 2017-18.

The School Board has been discussing start time changes as a result of external research demonstrating the positive impact of a later start time for high school students. For a full timeline of events leading up to the November 22nd vote, see the Timeline. For external research on the impact of a later start time for high school students, visit this page.

How long has a change in start times been considered?
Since 2008, the School Board has engaged with the community and Parent Advocates for a Later Start (PALS) to discuss options for changing school start times. You can view a full timeline of all events and associated materials to better understand what steps have been taken and the process through which the change in start time will be determined.

Will elementary schools keep the same early or late classification next year? (In other words, will early elementary schools stay early elementary schools?)

The bell times advertised on the Current Status page do not represent any significant changes in which elementary schools start late and which start early.

How much does NSD spend on transportation each year?
In 2014-15, the district spent approximately $7.2M on transportation. This number is projected to be $7.3M for 2015-16. If no change in start time occurred, the anticipated operating costs for 2017-18 would be $8.2M (used as the baseline cost comparison for evaluating all start time change options).

How much will changing start times cost?
The exact cost to change start times is unknown. One option that was considered but not selected was Option A, a 40-minute roll. Costs of the 25-minute roll can be expected to be similar to this model; cost estimates of Option A projected an increase in annual operating costs (2017-18 budget cycle estimate) by $308,000. Additionally, the model required capital investments totaling $960,000.* To date, hundreds of administrative hours and approximately 1,000 volunteer hours have been spent evaluating the options for implementation. Additionally, the district has hired several outside consultants to perform surveys, prepare reports, and assist with the analysis.

What will be the impacts on before and after school activities (sports, music, robotics club, etc.)?
The impact on before and after school activities will be assessed by NSD and the STTF over the coming months. The district and task force will work collaboratively and proactively to continue supporting the high quality programs available to our students. Updated information on this topic will be shared with the community as soon as it is available.

How has the community been able to provide input on the change in start times?
Since 2011, several surveys have been conducted in an attempt to gauge the public's interest in and feedback on changing start times. Additionally, community input was gathered at four open houses in spring 2016. The membership of the task force includes individuals who work within schools at all levels and at the district office, parents, one non-parent community member, and a student. All task force meetings and School Board meetings are open to the public; if you would like to make a public comment, please feel free to attend. You can find the task force meeting schedule here and the School Board meeting schedule here. You can also email the School Board directly. The School Board has heard from many engaged community members via email, phone and public comment throughout the process.

If NSD legally required to provide transportation for all students?
By Washington State law, NSD is legally required to provide transportation for special education and homeless students. All other transportation services provided by the district are not legally required. However, if the district elects to provide service to any student who is not homeless or in special education, then it must provide transportation for all students at that school level. (In other words, if the district provides transportation for one elementary student who is not homeless or in special education, then it must provide transportation for all elementary students.) In 2014-15, NSD had 19,000 students eligible (i.e., not within safe walking distance) to receive transportation to their home school. Of those, 9,000 students rode the bus to school. You may view Washington's RCWs and WACs associated with student transportation for more information.

What is the four-tiered bus system?
The four-tiered system at NSD refers to the current structure of the transportation system. Students are grouped into four tiers by school level (early elementary, late elementary, junior high, and high school). Each tier or group of students has a different start and end time, creating a staggered schedule. For a more in-depth look at the transportation system at NSD, see this presentation shared with the STTF.

Why does NSD use the four-tiered bus system?
By having a tiered bus system, a single bus and driver can cover routes in three or four of the tiers in both the morning and afternoon. This maximizes efficiencies by limiting the number of bus drivers and buses necessary to provide transportation. If a tier or multiple tiers within the system were eliminated, it would require NSD to invest heavily in transportation (purchase more buses, secure additional parking space, provide repair/maintenance work). Additionally, eliminating a tier or multiple tiers would require hiring many additional bus drivers.

Why doesn’t NSD just buy more buses?
At an average initial cost of $90,000 (for B-type buses) and $140,000 (for T-type buses), the acquisition of a significant number of additional buses is a resource-intensive proposition. Additionally, an increased fleet would incur greater maintenance, repair and replacement costs and require capital investment to expand the parking area for buses. Since transportation is paid out of the general fund, any increase in spending on transportation results in fewer dollars available for instructional purposes.

Perhaps even more problematic than the cost of expanding the bus fleet is the difficulty in finding additional qualified bus drivers. Even without expanding current need, hiring and retaining school bus drivers is a challenge. There are school bus driver shortages around the state and across the country. One benefit of NSD’s four-tiered system is that it reduces the number of bus drivers needed. Additionally, the tiers create working hours closer to a full-time schedule, making employment more attractive and feasible for applicants. The STTF reviewed bus driver hiring and retention at NSD in the second section of this presentation.

The STTF investigated several different scenarios that evaluated moving to a three-tiered system by expanding the bus fleet and hiring more drivers. One example of the options evaluated required adding 50 buses. The projected annual operating cost of this system would be $12.4M (representing a $4.4M increase over the baseline). Additionally, the increase in buses would require capital investment totaling $4.5M. These significant costs stand in contrast to the top three options identified in the survey to the community. Each surveyed option would require capital investments less than $1M and additional operating costs of no more than $400K (see costs of options surveyed). The Board may choose to continue discussions about three-tier options for future years.

Why can’t all schools start at 8 a.m.?
All schools could start at 8 a.m. However, this would require eliminating the four-tier system and would require significant transportation investment to expand the bus fleet and attract more bus drivers. The STTF reviewed options that reduced the tiered system, but none of these proposals moved forward to the final round of considerations.

Why can’t all schools start after 8 a.m.?
Some of the options evaluated by the STTF included all schools starting after 8 a.m. The School Board ultimately did not select one of these options to move forward in 2017-18. One concern with models that shifted start times forward past 8 a.m. related to the paired shift of end times. One method of lessening the impact of later start times on later end times may be in considering a three-tier model for future years. A three-tier model for 2017-18 was considered by the School Board but did not move forward due to logistical and cost concerns.

Why can’t students from different school levels (elementary, junior high, high school) ride the same bus, similar to Issaquah School District?
The locations of junior high and high schools throughout NSD do not facilitate the sharing of buses between junior high and high school students. The STTF evaluated having the high school and elementary students share buses. This scenario required moving from the current four-tier model to a three-tier model. In this scenario, the district would need to purchase an additional 20 buses at a cost of $2.8M, and there would be an anticipated annual operating cost of $11M (representing a $3M increase over baseline).

Has the task force looked at what other school districts are doing with regard to start times?
The task force reviewed other school districts' start time changes at their meeting on August 24, 2015, and have continued to follow media coverage of these efforts. The school districts reviewed and associated media can be viewed here. Lessons learned from these external examples were considered throughout the process of developing the options for NSD's change in start times.

The resolution passed in 2015; why isn't NSD implementing start time changes until 2017-18?
In order to engage the community and ensure smooth implementation, NSD has worked closely with the STTF to gather community input and carefully assess the systemic impacts of the start time change. (See the Timeline for a full list of events and associated materials). The intent of the time gap between the resolution (2015) and year of implementation (2017-18) is to allow time for critical planning to support the success of the change. Over the course of more than a year, the task force (collectively volunteering about 1,000 hours) gathered community input and discussed the myriad options that should be considered for meeting the mandate. District staff collaborated with the STTF to assess the options by providing in-depth, systems-impact analysis and costing information. Now that the School Board has determined how they would like to proceed, the school district (transportation department, school-based staff, etc.) will need time to plan the logistics of how they will accommodate the change.

The resolution said high school needed to start after 8 a.m. Why doesn’t the plan meet that guideline?
The School Board amended their resolution on November 22, 2016, to allow for an adjustment to the original parameter for start time changes. This amendment allowed more flexibility to shift closer to recommended late start times for adolescents while aiming to mitigate the impact of later school end times.

*This cost is due to growth within the district.