Madison Co. Schools considers schedule changes

Published: Jan. 17, 2014 at 8:25 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 14, 2014 at 8:25 PM CST
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In order to alleviate bus overcrowding, the district is considering staggered start times and...
In order to alleviate bus overcrowding, the district is considering staggered start times and doubling up on routes.

MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Madison County Schools is considering a schedule change that would push back the start time of class and give bus riders some extra sleep.

The proposal was discussed at Thursday night's school board meeting, where members approved to send out a survey to parents that details all three plans of the proposal and allows for their input.

The driving force behind the proposal is the county's school buses. They are overcrowded because as the district's student population has grown, its transportation budget has not. In fact, state funding for transportation has decreased since 2008.

Director of Operations Dan Evans said the budget from the state is $8 million. "That is 78% of what we are supposed to have. We should be funded at $9.5 million, so the system has to make up that difference, which takes the money out of the classroom and away from students," he said.

Currently the district has 219 buses that service 12,000 kids and drive a total of 10,000 miles each day. Those buses are at full capacity and the district does not have the funding to buy more.

In order to alleviate the overcrowding, shorten bus ride times, improve safety, and not spend any more money, the district has come up with a plan to double the bus routes while using the same number of buses and drivers. That plan is to change school start times so the buses could drop off the younger students and then come back for the older students.

One idea is to begin elementary and middle schools at 7:45 a.m. and dismiss at 2:45 p.m., while high schools would start at 8:45 a.m. and end at 3:45 p.m.

Alternatively, elementary and middle schools would run from 7:30 to 2:30, and 8:30 to 3:30 for high schools. There is also the option to make no changes at all.

Evans said buses are designed to carry three students per seat. "With high school and middle school students, that is not practical. We are trying to make sure we don't have that situation. One of the ways to do that is to come up with an alternate plan. Madison County has always had to do more with less," he said.

The parent input survey will be sent out next week, but the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the school board and superintendent. If changes are made, they would go into effect next school year.

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