The Hillsborough County School Board voted last Tuesday to approve proposed bell time changes for 2018-2019. The primary reason for the change appears to be resolving late bus arrivals. There was no solution for buses chronically late at schools around the county for the 2017-2018 school year. The bell time schedule discussion did not address bus driver absenteeism, vacancies, lack of substitute drivers, or buses parked at home locations overnight (1, pp. 141, 150-152). These are reasons Gibson Consulting Group, Inc. (Gibson) notes for late buses in their Phase II Report, discussed previously here.
The following question was missing from the School Board Meeting discussion:
How many late buses result from each of the following causes?
1. Absenteeism, lack of substitute drivers and vacancies,
2. Buses parked at home or offsite locations overnight (“offsite” means not at a facility where buses are housed and maintained), and
3. Short elapsed times.
While bell time changes were estimated to save $2M+ in transportation related spending, the changes place a burden on students and families that is not insignificant for many:
- Some parents will have to use child care in the morning.
- Elementary students will not benefit from the morning time in school (compared to current schedule) when they are fresh and rested; instead many will be in childcare.
- Elementary students will be kept in school later in the day when many are more exhausted.
- Elementary students may lose after-school enrichment opportunities for arts, music, or sports due to later release times.
- Not all families want their elementary age children in school longer.
- Elementary students have less time for homework and playtime.
- Extra teachers will likely be needed in elementary schools and that cost may exceed the expected savings.
- High School students start 15 minutes earlier.
Some of the above reasons and an analysis of the time changes are here: Analysis of HCPS Proposed 2018-2019 Bell Schedule.
There are benefits of the bell schedule change that were promoted but have not been well quantified. For example, there was no answer provided in the meeting to the question posed by School Board Member Melissa Snively regarding how many high school students worked that might benefit from the earlier release schedule.
HCPS has implied that the new bell schedule will address the late bus issue impacting over 10,000 students on a daily basis. What analysis, report, or study has been provided to help the public understand the root cause of late buses? Is the short elapsed time suspected to be the root cause or has it been proven to be the root cause? If it has been proven, some statistics around the problem locations would be very helpful.
Might there still be chronically late buses resulting from absenteeism, driver vacancies, and delays resulting from overnight parking? How severe and chronic is that problem? Where is that data?
Based on comments in last Tuesday’s HCPS Special Called Board Meeting, the school system is short around 170 bus drivers (after factoring in absenteeism). See webcast here at 1:57:00 (time marker) for that discussion.
In summary, with this decision, the Hillsborough County School District: Continue reading