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Schools weigh changing start times to fix bussing issues

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 5:50 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A new plan is in place to solve the bussing woes that have plagued the South Bend Community School Corporation.

The plan promises to get kids to school on time, time after time.

For years, the corporation tried to solve the problem by adding more busses and more drivers.

The new plan actually calls for fewer drivers and a lessening of the number of students being bussed at any given time.

The South Bend school busses now make two pickup and drop-off runs per school day: One for elementary students, and for more middle and high school students.

Next fall, plans call for three separate pickup and drop-off runs: One for elementary students, one for high school students, and one for middle schoolers.

“In essence you look at the numbers, we just don’t have enough bus drivers. We talk about adding bus drivers, but we just never seem to be able to hire enough drivers to cover the current system,” SBCSC Board President John Anella told 16 News Now.

The new system will require 29 fewer busses, but it will also require new staggered school start times.

Elementary students will report at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m.

High school students will start at 8:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.

Middle school students will begin at 9:30 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.

The time changes drew some criticism at Monday night’s school board meeting.

“I can’t imagine requiring our youngest children, our most vulnerable, to be at the bus stop at or before 7 a.m.,” National Education Association South Bend President Linda Lucy told the board.

“Do we really allow 11 to 14-year-olds to take on full responsibility to wake themselves up, eat on their own, lock up the house behind them?” asked teacher and parent Jessica Hoover.

But the school district surveyed parents and found that nearly 65-percent agreed “ensuring on time arrival” of students in schools, “was more important than the overall start time.”

“Let’s be honest, any, any change, any time, is going to require some adjustment, and it’s going to cause some issues right? Historically, when you change times there’s going to be some adjustment period and then in a year or two, that’ll be the way it is,” said Anella. “The point is, they did their homework on the times, and it aligns with how several other districts around us do it, and do it successfully.”

The Penn Harris Madison, and Goshen school districts also run three-tiered transportation system.

South Bend’s program is expected to save the district about $1 million per year.

Finalized bus routes are expected to be approved in late July.

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