Board Approves Start Times Plan

“Start Smart” aims to get all students to school on time

By Mark Hebert

March 28, 2023—The Jefferson County Board of Education tonight approved a plan to add new school start and dismissal times. Beginning in August, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) will have eight start times for K-12 students instead of the current two. The plan will also have two start times for early childhood centers. The Start Smart Plan is designed to alleviate the problems caused by a shortage of bus drivers and thousands of students arriving late to school each day.

“This is a necessary change,” said board vice chair Dr. Corrie Shull. 

Students sitting on a bus.

“We have to get these kids to school,” said board member James Craig with board member Sarah McIntosh adding “What we are doing now is just not acceptable.”

The new schedules will go into effect at the start of the 2023-24 school year in August. 

The plan would cut the number of bus routes from more than 730 to approximately 600 and substantially reduce the need for bus drivers to make double runs to get all students to school. JCPS currently has about 660 school bus drivers and anticipates having the same number next school year. 

In the current school year, more than 21,000 JCPS students have missed in excess of 3.5 million minutes of instructional time because their buses have arrived late to school, sometimes as much as two-and-a-half hours late. That’s “unacceptable and unsustainable,” according to Dr. Marty Pollio, JCPS superintendent.

“Our teachers can’t do their jobs educating our children if those students are not in class,” Pollio said. “Tackling this difficult issue ensures that students will get to school on time, receive a full day of instruction and get home in a reasonable time as well.”

Pollio also expects the plan to improve attendance and attentiveness in class for middle and high school students, most of whom will get additional sleep through later start times. 

“This is what is right for kids,” Pollio said.

Start times will be staggered and range from 7:40 to 9:40 a.m. for elementary, middle, high schools, early childhood programs based at elementary schools, and the George Unseld and Westport Early Childhood Centers. Dismissal times would range from 2:20 to 4:20 p.m.

Dawson Orman and DuValle Early Childhood centers will begin at 10:40 a.m. and will have a dismissal time of 5:20 p.m.

About 70 percent of JCPS students regularly ride a bus to school.