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Local Student Transporters Mull Potential Impact of Later School Start Times


WRITTEN BY DAVID GEORGE | DAVID@STNONLINE.COM O


hio lawmakers recently intro- duced a bill to require that all public schools start at 8:30 a.m. or later. If approved, it would


make Ohio the second state (after Califor- nia) to require later start times. With Senate Bill 218 referred to the education commit- tee last month, already there have been several Ohio school districts that have complied and pushed back start times. For instance, the Cincinnati Public School (CPS) Board of Education in March 2018 held a community meeting to discuss the impact of a later school start time for high school students. CPS also conducted a survey of high school students to gather their input on school start times. However, school officials there said that starting high schools at a later time “can’t be done without significant modifications to the city’s Metro bus schedule and availabili- ty, and Metro officials estimate it would cost tens of millions of dollars to afford addition- al buses to accommodate those routes.” In a March 2017 memo, Cincinnati


Metro claimed it would cost $25 million to $50 million to buy enough transit buses to transport all high school students to school at a later time. CPS officials cited other problems as


well. “A later start time means a later end time, which impacts after-school activi- ties and after-school work schedules,” the memo stated. Regardless, the district went ahead and


recently passed a resolution to change its start times to 8:30 a.m. or later within the next three years. Meanwhile, the discussions continue


among school transportation officials statewide. Opinions are expected to widely differ on the likely impact that later school start times might have on trans- portation and route schedules. “At this moment, I am on the fence with the start time change,” said Ohio Associ- ation for Pupil Transportation President Melody C. Coniglio. She said her primary concern is how changing start times will affect high school athletic schedules and their unique bus departure and return times.


6 THE SHOW REPORTER • NOV 2-5, 2019


“I am also wondering if we will have to put additional resources on the road, which will worsen our bus driver short- age,” she added. Bruce B. Berry, director of transpor-


tation at Black River Local Schools in Sullivan, acknowledged that he hasn’t heard any conversations regarding later school start times in Ohio. But, he added, “I would imagine that later school start times would change many route schedules and could impact multi-tiered routing. The extra costs would also be a factor, especially if these later start times would cause overlapping of routes to get students to school.” Sharon L. Conley, a transportation supervisor at Northwest Local Schools and the south region director of the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation, said she does not anticipate the district modi- fying current schedules, unless mandated by law. “We are a rural school district en- compassing 184 square miles,” she said. “If we were to start/end the school day later, we would have children not getting home until 6 p.m.”


When taking athletics into consider-


ation, she said a later end to the school day would likely mean that student-athletes would require an earlier class dismissal, particularly on days when they must travel. “Later start times for athletics would defi- nitely require that outdoor activities would need to install lighting to accommodate later start times for games,” she added. “For our district, in particular, because of our demographics, cost would certainly be a factor, because of nonroutine trips over- lapping regular routes.” Jay Price, the transportation supervisor


at Mohawk Local Schools in Sycamore, commented that he doesn’t think trans- portation costs will increase, at least in his district. But he added that he isn’t con- vinced that starting school later will solve the issues of students getting more sleep. Instead, Price said, “It’s a parent problem.” “The parents who do their job as a parent


already have their children get the correct amount of sleep,” he observed. “It’s the parents that don’t deserve to have children that allow theirs to do whatever they want.”


In contrast, Lori Carter-Evans, director


of transportation for the Olentangy Schools department of transportation in Galena, said she has heard changing the school start times may result in increased costs. “Depending on the times and route combinations, the possible need for additional buses and drivers will drive up transportation costs,” she added. “For districts that currently struggle with filling vacancies, the desired benefits will be offset by not having enough drivers to meet the new start and end times.” Fortunately, noted Carter-Evans, the school district is not currently experienc- ing a driver shortage. “We are, however, recruiting for substitute drivers,” she added. Beth Cain, the transportation director


for Piqua City Schools, described the difficult situation that she and her super- intendent face. “In my school, we are triple routed, meaning each bus runs three different routes in the a.m. and three different routes in the p.m.,” she explained. “This change would most likely cause a need to purchase more buses and hire more staff. Buses are approximately $100,00 each.” And then there are the issues of extra staff and bus maintenance requirements. “Hiring additional staff would be very


costly for the district as well, since anyone who works three hours or more would get access to insurance—not to mention the school would have to pay more to the retirement system,” Cain said. “The cost to maintain buses has gone up-up-up. Getting drivers and aides to staff these routes would be nearly impossible.” •


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