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833 bus problems might cause start time change for middle schools

When school started this year, there was a problem with buses arriving up to 20 minutes late to pick up elementary school students on afternoon runs. Superintendent Mark Porter told the school board, at a workshop meeting on Oct. 22, that he hoped the situation would resolve itself when students got used to finding their buses more quickly.

The late-bus problem has not gone away, according to Transportation Director Gary Dechaine.

Dechaine said he made a mistake in calculating the time buses need to take kids home from middle schools. That has caused buses to arrive late at elementary schools.

The department has contracted for an additional 10 buses to solve 20-minute delays, but 22 buses are still up from five to 10 minutes late.

The cost of hiring the additional buses through the end of the school year is about $120,000, according to Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for facilities.

The most economical solution is to move start times at four middle schools 15 minutes earlier from 7:55 a.m. to 7:40 a.m. That would leave enough time in the afternoon for buses to arrive on time, Dechaine said. After elementary school bus runs, buses would also arrive on time at the three high schools.

High school start times were changed because of research showing high school students, because of a naturally occurring hormone that controls sleep, are not fully awake for learning until after 8 a.m. That decision triggered start time changes at middle and elementary schools.

Board members said they need more information before making a decision. They asked for data on how changing the time would affect school activities and staff members.

The matter will be discussed at the Nov. 5 board workshop meeting, but Board Chair Ron Kath said a special meeting could be scheduled between Nov. 5 and the regular meeting on Nov. 19 to discuss solutions.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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