Seattle Parks and Recreation, Seattle Public Schools Work Together to make Athletic Field Times Conform to School Start Times

The City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools are working together to extend the hours that athletic fields may be used for school sports in order to accommodate new bell times next year.

Over the years, Seattle residents have supported athletic field and facility development through many city and school district levies and bond measures. Since the 1920s, to maximize efficient use of these fields and facilities, the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools have operated under an agreement that allows for the joint use of each other’s separately-owned fields and facilities, expanding all users’ access to recreational space and prioritizing students and youth through a joint-scheduling process.

Last year, following a trend among many school districts nationwide, Seattle Public Schools changed start and end times for schools, generally moving these bell times later for middle and high schools and earlier for elementary schools. A year of study and community feedback led to the change, intended to better reflect the sleep rhythms of students to benefit their health and academics.

These bell time changes require shifts in scheduling for fields and facilities for all users – youth and adults alike – to accommodate the many students who will be released later in the day. Updating the schedule for the 2016-17 school sports seasons is still in process, and that schedule will impact scheduling for all fields and facilities. 

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) and Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) are working collaboratively to keep impacts to a minimum, and to honor priority use for youth while maintaining as much capacity as possible for adults. Once the impact from bell time changes is factored into the updated field and facility schedules, SPR will follow up with all users to schedule the remaining availability.

“We understand how important these fields and facilities are to the community,” said SPR Superintendent Jesús Aguirre. “We’re pleased to be working with our partners to minimize the impact of school schedule changes, to ensure that these important amenities continue to be available for community exercise and recreation.”

“Seattle has made a momentous step forward in adjusting high school start times to improve sleep and learning,” said Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Larry Nyland. “Thank you to Seattle Parks for working with us to align after-school uses of athletic fields to best serve our students.”

SPS and SPR intend to update the Joint Use Agreement, using the 2016-17 school year as a transitional period to work through the changes resulting from shifts in field use times.

Both agencies are grateful to field and facility users, both school- and community-based, for their patience as we work through these changes in an effort to meet continuous youth and community demands for recreational opportunities.