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the Anaheim Union High School District in Southern California. “I tried to get my district to change bell times for the benefit of the transportation department two years ago,” he shared. “If they only give us 30-minutes to get to school and the bus needs 45-min- utes to do the route, we aren’t going to make it. The parents complain that the kids don’t have time for breakfast, and I have to keep explaining why our buses can’t do the impossible.” Thomas also mentioned that


he dealt with the home-to-school challenge at his previous school district, the Anaheim Elemntary School District. “They wanted me to cut routes back when the economy tanked around 2009, during the Great Recession. We went from a two-tier to a three-ti- er system, and a later start time of 8:50 a.m.,” he relayed. “That change had a lot of people going ballistic. But we didn’t have a choice because of major budget cuts. But those bell time changes saved money by having 10 less drivers on the payroll. The school estimated that each driver cost about $100,000 a year in salary and benefits, so it was a signifi- cant savings.” Thomas noted that because general education transportation isn’t mandated in California, the elimination of service has been a big trend seen since the econom- ic downturn. “There are districts where 9,000


students who used to ride bus- es now have no transportation to school,” he added. “Here in Anaheim, we have a lot of dan- gerous areas, for example, the freeway by Disneyland, and we certainly don’t want kids crossing there. Yes, we could make them walk those three miles to school, but we know if we don’t provide


those kids with transportation, they simply aren’t going to go to school.” However, Adams 12 Five Star Schools near Denver reached a compromise. “We’re on a mostly three-tier system, with some ex- ceptions like out-of-district runs,” explained Igor Petrovic, director of transportation. “Our routing system was already based around using the least amount of buses and drivers because of the driver shortage and cost savings. When we were restructuring the bell times, the community, schools, and parents pretty much agreed that they all wanted between an 8 and 8:30 a.m. start time. That couldn’t be accomplished unless we regressed to a two-tier system.” The compromise was to keep


the routes, buses and drivers that they already had, and move everything up by 30 minutes. “The later high school start time of 7:45 a.m. was mostly due to sleep research,” he added. “So the compromise kept our depart- ment on the three-tier system we had, while allowing that later time for the high school students. Our drivers are making the same amount of money, but for many of them the drawback is that they aren’t done until 5 or 5:30 p.m. in the afternoon.”


Denver’s Samora said tech- nology paves the way for more efficient routing and bell time changes. “I can’t build up our system on corrupted routes. With better routing, it clears the way for future initiatives, such as our health initiative for later second- ary school start times, and other opportunities for our students like after school activities,” he con- cluded. ●


47% of respondents adjusted or changed their bell times last


school year. (Out of 76 responses to a recent STN reader survey.)


53% of respondents say administration/ school board made the decision to change bell


times. (Out of 32 respondents who adjusted bell times last school year.)


Top reasons school districts changed bell times:


64% Social distancing/ routing challenges


42% Classroom education


20% Other, (unsure of reasoning, cohorts, state laws.)


17% School bus driver shortage


(Out of 36 respondents who said they adjusted bell times last school year. Total does not equal 100.)


46 School Transportation News • JULY 2021


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