Barber says 3-tier busing stays; Two-tier discussed for 2014-15
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
During the February Big Walnut Local School District Board of Education meeting, district Assistant Superintendent Gary Barber raised the issue of 2013–14 school year bell times. Those bell times determine the district’s transportation schedule – one-tier, two-tier, or three-tier busing.
In a one-tier busing model all district schools start up and end their days at the same time, requiring the most buses on the road at the same time. In a two-tier system the district has two start and end bell times, allowing drivers to service one school’s bell times and then another’s, resulting in fewer buses on the road and lower costs to the district in both fleet and personnel.
The district moved to three-tier busing at the start of the current school year, three different bell times were established for building startup and release times. Big Walnut High School and Big Walnut Middle School currently start their days at 7:35 a.m. and students are released at 2:25 p.m. Big Walnut Intermediate School starts at 9:10 a.m. and releases students at 4 p.m. All three district elementary buildings start at 8:25 a.m. and students are released at 3:15 p.m.
During Monday evening’s March board meeting Barber said the district would continue using a three-tier busing system for the 2013–14 school year with slightly tweaked bell times.
Barber said Big Walnut High School and Big Walnut Middle School would be in session from 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., for 6 hours and 30 minutes of in school time. All three district elementary buildings will be on an 8:25 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule for 6 hours and 35 minutes of school time. Big Walnut Intermediate School’s bell times will be 9:15 a.m. and 3:55 p.m. for 6 hours and 40 minutes of school time.
Barber also noted that morning kindergarten would be 8:25 to 10:55 a.m., and afternoon kindergarten will be 12:25 to 3 p.m.; both have 2 hours and 35 minutes of classroom time.
“We’re not going to start any earlier than we are this year,” Barber said. “We’re looking at the SAC program, because many parents do not pick sack students up until 5 or 5:30 p.m. We’re not sure if our SAC is designed for that long of a time. Our other goal is not to reduce instructional time.”
Barber said the district is exploring a number of ways to get back classroom time that will be lost to a tweaked bus schedule. Options on the table are adjusting the elementary dismissal time, discontinuing the high school’s late start, and adjusting the length of specials, Eagle Time, class change time and testing procedures.
“None of these are set in stone; it’s things we’ve talked about,” Barber said. “We’re going to challenge our administrators; we’re determined that our kids are not going to lose classroom time.”
As an added note, Barber and district transportation supervisor Ron McClure recommended that board members start considering returning to a two-tier bus system in the 2014–15 school year because of the possibility of opening another elementary building.
Barber said a two-tier system would have high school, middle school and intermediate school 7:50 a.m. and 2:35 p.m. bell times; district elementary buildings would operate with 8:50 a.m. and 3:35 bell times. All district buildings would return to 6 hours and 45 minutes of school time.
During the February board meeting Barber said the added cost of moving to a two-tier system would be two new buses at $75,000 each or $150,000, and an additional $100,000 in operation costs.
He also said two-tier busing would force the district to make double runs. Double runs would involve some individual buses doing two pick-up routes and two drop-off routes each day for a specific building, creating student supervision concerns.
“The double runs could be eliminated with four additional buses for $300,000 and $200,000 more in operating costs,” Barber said in February.
Barber said nothing is set in stone for the 2014–15 school year; that any 2014–15 busing and related bell time decision is one year out.