SpEd PTSA Board Letter in Support of Lowell Med-Frag Families

November 18, 2015

Seattle School District
Attention: Board of Directors
MS 11-010
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Re: Lowell Elementary School Start Time

Dear Superintendent Nyland and School Directors,

We are writing to you today concerning the proposed school start time for Lowell Elementary School. As you know, Lowell is an extraordinary school that serves many of our district’s most vulnerable students.  The start time for Lowell next year is 7:50 a.m. This is an hour-and-forty minute difference from the start time this year, which is 9:30 a.m.  This will have a disproportionate impact on students who receive special education services at Lowell, especially those who are medically fragile. Lowell has a population which is comprised of 40% special education students, over 30 of which are classified as medically-fragile.  Medically fragile students, by OSPI definition, are students with complex health care needs who daily face the possibility of a life-threatening emergency requiring the skill and judgment of a professional nurse.[1] Many of these students have severe seizure disorders, mobility issues, and/or congenital/hereditary defects. They are dependent on their families for complex monitoring and administration of medications, as well as care around tracheostomies, gastric tubes and urinary catheterization. Many of these students use wheelchairs to mobilize.  A morning routine for many of these students may last well over an hour and a half. This is fact.

All the bus routes for special education students who attend Lowell begin picking up students one hour and twenty minutes before the start of school.[2] If the start time is changed to 7:50 am, bus pick-up for these elementary students will start at 6:30 a.m. This means that some of the children who are picked up at Lowell will have to start their morning routine at 5:00 am. This places undue hardship on both the parents and the students, but more importantly, it is very likely that children may arrive at school either underfed, overly tired or inadequately treated, which will impact their health and their ability to learn.   For the same reason, many parents may decide to keep their children home until their child is awake enough, fed enough and treated enough to be able to benefit from their schooling. This is only possible for those families with wheelchair-accessible transportation. For parents who cannot afford a specialized van, the impact of a very early school bus time may mean that their child may completely miss many more days of school.  Missed school time may lead to district liability for compensatory education for these children.

The difficulties with the proposed new start time of 7:50 am will cause parents to have to choose between keeping their very vulnerable kids healthy, or have them access their education under circumstances unconducive to learning.  Bus trips of 1 hour and 20 minutes already do not conform to the spirit of the WAC.  How can two rounds trips of this length be considered reasonable?  Now compound that with a 5:00 am wake-up for nebulizer treatments, trach care, and enteral feeding.

The Special Education PTSA has heard from many parents of students at Lowell, who ask that the Superintendent reconsider his recommendation to place Lowell in the first tier.  We are in strong support of these parents and children.  This is a question of equity for our medically-fragile students.  Do not harm them.  Please direct staff to revise Lowell’s start time so that it allows parents to adequately care for their students and ensure they arrive at school ready to learn.


Cecilia McCormick, President

Mary Griffin, Legislative Chair

Lori Hiltz, Vice-President

Ayn McNutt, Treasurer

Janis White, Parent Advocate

[1] Washington State Nursing Care Quality Assurance Commission and Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Staff Model for the Delivery of School Health Services 9 (Apr. 2000, revised Dec. 2005), available athttp://www.doh.wa.gov/portals/1/Documents/6000/StaffModel.pdf.

[2] This is in excess of the time recommended by the Washington Administrative Codes, which states that wherever reasonably possible, no student should be required to ride more than sixty minutes one way. WAC 392-172A-02095.