New SPS bell times force high school athletes to lose class time

For some student athletes in the Seattle Public School District, later start times are making them lose class time.

The later start times for high school students is supposed to improve their learning. But for some student athletes in the Seattle Public School district, the new bell times are making them lose class time. 

In order for the West Seattle High School varsity soccer team to bus to their away games, they would need to leave school at 12:45 p.m. It forces the students to miss their last two two periods and often their lunch. For some junior varsity and freshmen players, it means losing three periods.

“It's a tough spot, because I love soccer, but school comes first,” said Kate Veenhuizen, a senior and varsity captain for the team.

The problem comes from busing. The buses that take high school athletes to their games are also needed to bus elementary school kids home after school.  With the earlier bell times for younger students, buses need to transport the high school sports teams earlier in the afternoon to be available for when elementary school lets out.

For senior Kate Veenhuizen, it would have meant missing two Advanced Placement classes.

“As soon as you get one day behind, you’re missing notes, you're missing lectures,” she said.

Veenhuizen scrambled to switch her AP classes to an earlier time, but not every student can be accommodated.

“Whenever you move a system and do something that is as progressive as moving to a later start time, there will be so many moving factors,” said West Seattle high school principal Ruth Medsker. “This is one that isn't worked out.”

The district-wide problem is impacting mostly student athletes with earlier day games, like soccer, baseball, track, and tennis.

Medsker said the ironic part is that the new bell times were supposed to help students make the most of class time.

“The research shows that students sleeping in and giving a little more time that teenagers will get a better education. But now we're taking part of that away,” she said. 

The school district says it is working on the issue, along with Seattle Parks and Recreation, which provides many of the fields for games.

The athletes hope they don’t have to choose between the sport they love and the education they need.

Copyright 2016 KING


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