Hillsborough County School Bell Times: An Elapsed Time Increase of 196% and No Alternative?

This post discusses other possible bell schedules.  Increasing time between school bells to as much as 55-75 minutes for every area might not be optimal for all bus routes. What other creative options, like tailoring bell schedules to local needs, are being considered? When the world is increasingly customizing operations with applied mathematics, what technologies are being used to make the whole operation run more efficiently?

Are There Other Bell Schedule Options?

There are so many scenarios that could be developed; it is hard to know what is feasible without knowledge of district internal operations, requirements, and data.  A number of suggestions that seem feasible are provided in Bell Time Changes – Other Options.   These options do not even consider solutions derived from customizing times within a school type or across areas of the district.

In the April 25th Special Called Board Meeting at 2:00:15 (time marker), there is a discussion about the “very unique” way high school wraps around elementary school, also discussed here.  It is explained that when high school wraps around elementary, stretching times by a “few minutes apart” will cause high school and elementary school to “end up on top of each other in the afternoon”.  Is that correct? Are there really no other options where high school and elementary school start times can be adjusted by a few minutes to allow more time between their bells and not push their release times too close together?  Is the only other real option to stay with the current “dysfunctional” bell schedule?   There may indeed be some viable alternatives.

See example 1a, below, where they are not on top of each other and high school does still wrap around.  Could example 1a be an alternative?  The bell schedule changes in example 1a and 1b offer a moderate change to current schedules while increasing the minutes elapsed between high school and elementary school start times.

Bell Time Changes - Other Options 1a

In this example bell times are not 55-75 minutes apart, but they are also not 27 minutes apart.  An increase of 18 minutes (from 27 to 45 minutes) between the start of high and elementary schools will relieve some of the pressure with the current 27 minute elapsed time.  What about combining this with fixes to the other problems identified?  It might not fix the late bus problem 100%, but it might result in a better outcome to address all of the identified problems in moderation than drastically changing elapsed times alone.  The increase in elapsed time between high school and elementary school start times approved, but tentative, on April 25th is 196% (from 27 to 80 minutes).

Another more significant change brought up in the School Board Meeting is to start elementary school first. This option might also address the late arrivals at elementary school Extended Reading Time (ERT) locations.  It offers the flexibility of extending the elementary day before and/or after school to meet the additional reading requirements without the consequence of a much later or earlier start for all elementary students. Two examples of the “elementary school starts first” scenario are shown in Bell Time Changes – Other Options (see examples 4a and 4b).  These two examples also avoid significantly impacting schools downstream in bus routes when extending the day for ERT locations.

Superintendent Eakins writes in his April 17 email:

“A 27-minute timeframe is clearly unrealistic and has resulted in our students arriving late to school, causing them to lose valuable instructional time.”

A 27 minute elapsed time may have something to do with late arrivals, yet we have been indirectly told most of those buses are getting around 50 minutes, not 27 minutes, to arrive at elementary schools.  How much are late buses correlated with elapsed times versus caused by elapsed times?  And again, there are other issues that Gibson Consulting Group, Inc. has identified to be causing late buses: staffing issues and overnight bus parking locations (1, pp. 140-141,149).

If Hillsborough County Public Schools (HCPS) determined that elapsed times were the primary cause of this problem, one could then reasonably expect data and reports to exist pointing to that cause.  However, there seems to be a lack of data being offered, presented, or reported by HCPS to support how late the buses generally are or why.

Are the approved but tentative changes going to cost more (increase in specials teachers), inconvenience students and families, and then still result in late buses?  Without more information it is hard to actually know the answers to any of these questions or feel comfortable with the decision that was made at the Special Called School Board meeting on Tuesday, April 25.


1Gibson Consulting Group, Inc., Phase II: Operational Efficiency Audit – Comprehensive Report for Hillsborough County Public Schools, https://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/docs/00/00/17/86/HCPSGibsonPhaseIIFinal_Report.pdf

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