DUNLAP — Start times and end times for all school buildings at Concord Community Schools will change this fall.
The school board on Monday unanimously approved a request to adjust school day schedules for the 2019-20 school year.
The changes will take effect on Aug. 14, the first day of school for the 2019-20 school year.
The plan to adjust the school day schedules began last fall as a way for the district to offer more consistent bus transportation for Concord families amid an ongoing bus driver shortage, school officials said.
The district partnered with TransPar, a consulting group that specializes in school bus transportation, and also formed the Transportation Changes Team, consisting of more than 30 teachers, principals, parents, bus drivers and school administrators, as well as representatives from the performing arts and athletics departments.
The team, which has met monthly since October, weighed several options before determining the best way to solve issues such as overcrowded buses, inconsistent drop-off and pick-up times, and the need to make double and triple runs – without cutting routes or expanding walk zones – was to shift school day start and end times to provide four distinct routes for bus drivers.
The elementary routes (Concord Ox Bow, Concord East Side, Concord South Side and Concord West Side) will begin first with a school start time at 7:25 a.m. and dismissal time at 2:15 p.m. – an hour and 20 minutes earlier than the current schedule.
Concord Junior High School routes will begin next with a start time of 7:50 a.m. and dismissal at 2:50 p.m. – 10 minutes later than the current time.
Concord High School routes will follow with a start time at 8:20 and dismissal at 3:20 p.m. – 30 minutes later than the current time.
Concord Intermediate School routes will conclude with start times at 8:50 a.m. and dismissal time at 3:50 p.m.–15 minutes later than the current time.
Superintendent Tim Tahara said the decision to have K-4 routes begin first came in part from feedback the district received from teachers who said their students are “done” at 2:30 p.m. and yet teachers are still trying to teach until 3:30 p.m.
“The decision also comes from brain research that talks about how the adolescent brain does better in the day,” he said. “So we took advantage of those two things to start with K-4 and to move Concord High School a little further down the day.”
The corporation provides busing for about 4,100 students, roughly 70 percent of the student body.
Currently, the average time on a bus is 31 minutes, and with the new implementation, the average time will be knocked down to about 17 minutes, according to Tahara.
Tahara said the corporation also assigns an average of 91 students to every school bus, no matter what grade. The district uses 84 passenger buses, which is why many drivers have double and sometimes triple routes into neighborhoods.
With this implementation, that number will go down to about 41 kids assigned to a bus.
“So, now we feel we have some cushion, some capacity and we should be able to run our bus schedule because of that – shorter trips and fewer kids on the bus,” he said.
Director of Transportation Shannan Simon expressed her appreciation for the many teachers, parents, coaches and other community members who shared their viewpoints as the Transportation Changes Team weighed the options.
“Transportation is an important service that Concord Community Schools provides our community,” Simon said. “In making these adjustments, we seek to provide a more consistent transportation experience for our families.”
Student bus ID cards and an online tracking program that allows parents to see when their child’s bus will arrive will continue to be utilized, Simon added.
In addition to new school start times, schools will no longer have late-start Tuesdays. For the past five years, school buildings have started classes 30 minutes later on Tuesdays to provide time for staff meetings and professional development for teachers.
Tahara said the district is confident the move will be effective.
“We feel we’ve been very thorough on this process,” he said. “We know that not everyone is going to be happy and we apologize for that. But we wanted to make sure we announced this change well before next school year to get anyone that has to arrange for child care time to make those adjustments.”
One parent, David Butler, said the new schedule probably addresses transportation and funding issues, but he is uncertain if the students’ best interests are served.
“I looked at the schedule and just looking at the high school – April and May and the start times for evening activities ranging from 5 to 7:30 p.m.,” he said, “and end times for those activities up until 10 p.m. and if you do the math on that, a 10 p.m. end time, then you got to let people go home and get settled down and add only nine hours on top of that for when they should be getting up.”
Board member Randy Myers told Butler that many factors played a role in the decision to change the school schedules and advised him to schedule a time to meet with Tahara to further address his concerns.