Plan would alleviate bus driver shortage, students getting to school late
February 15, 2023 - Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) would add more school start times for kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12) students under a proposal unveiled by Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio today. The additional times for students to start and end their school day are designed to help alleviate the problems caused by a shortage of bus drivers to get students to school on time.
“Hundreds of JCPS students are missing instruction time every day because their bus is arriving 10 minutes to two-and-a-half hours late to school,” Pollio said. “That’s not fair to our students, their families, our teachers, or our bus drivers. This plan is the only way to ensure student learning time is no longer a victim to our bus driver shortage.”
JCPS may be the only large, urban school district in the country with just two “bell times” - 7:40 a.m. for middle and high schools and 9:05 a.m. for elementary schools. The new proposal would create eight start times from 7:40 a.m. to 9:40 a.m. for students in K-12 and an additional start time of 10:40 a.m. for early childhood center students. Dismissal times would range from 2:20 p.m. to 4:20 p.m. for grades K-12. Early childhood center students would leave school at 5:20 p.m.
The plan would reduce the number of bus routes from 732 to 600 and no longer require bus drivers to make double or triple runs to get all students to school. JCPS currently has about 660 school bus drivers and anticipates having the same number next school year.“Providing more start times for K through 12, reducing the number of routes and staggering them over a two-hour period is the best solution to ensuring that we get every student to school, on time, every day,” Pollio said. “I realize change is hard and some will be inconvenienced, but this is something we probably should have done decades ago.”
Under the proposal, the start times for 19 schools would remain the same. Eighty three percent of schools would have start times change by an hour or less. The majority of JCPS middle and high schools would have later bell times, giving students more time to sleep. That has been a goal of Pollio’s for several years and a research-backed way to improve student attentiveness and performance in the classroom.
The plan would also benefit school staff who are currently working extra hours supervising students who are waiting for second or third run buses to take them home after dismissal.
Pollio plans to present the proposal, called Smart Start, to the Jefferson County Board of Education at a March meeting. If approved, the new school times schedule would be implemented at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year.
JCPS is planning to have a live, on-line information session about the proposal on Monday, February 20th at 6 p.m.