Elkhart schools considering busing changes

The school day could look quite different for Elkhart students starting next year if proposed busing changes are adopted.

The school district held its first of three public meetings to discuss the options Wednesday night.

Superintendent Rob Haworth says they're all aimed at reducing the number of buses, which is necessary because of a $2.3 million transportation budget shortfall.

"Think of losing a third of your own home budget," Haworth said. "You would have to do things differently and that's not something new."

Three different options are being considered.

Under the first, Haworth says high schools and middle schools would start at 7:30 a.m. and be released at 2:45 p.m. Elementary schools would be an hour behind, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Option two staggers start times more, with the school day running from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for high schools and Cleveland Elementary, from 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for other elementary schools, and from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. for middle schools and Bristol Elementary.

The third option is similar, but would instead have middle schools and Bristol starting earliest (7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.) and high schools and Cleveland starting last (9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.).

Haworth says the staggered schedules would allow bus drivers to run multiple routes.

In order to make transportation more efficient, the district is also considering changing elementary school boundary lines.

"Maybe a subdivision makes greater sense for us to take into this school because of how bus traffic flows," Haworth said. "And, so we want to try to create a process that does not disrupt everyone. But, we know we're going to disrupt a few."

Even if adopted, the proposed changes won't completely makeup for the $2.3 million loss.

Haworth says Elkhart schools will not purchase any new buses and will instead use the money allotted for those purchases to help close the budget gap.

If the school board approves one of the three options, the number of bus drivers will be reduced.

"I'm a little bit nervous," said Elkhart bus driver Michelle Caceres. "I was thinking about some of the drivers about whether they'll have jobs next year."

But, Haworth says he's hopeful most of the cuts will come through attrition. It's unclear how many drivers could be affected because it depends on the option the board chooses.

Two other meetings are planned to get feedback from the community before the school board considers the measure.

There will be a meeting at 6 p.m. April 22 at Pierre Moran Middle School and another on April 24 at 6 p.m. in the large group room at West Side Middle School.

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