School board hears another busing plan

By Stacy Kess

March 11, 2014

A proposal to change the times of the Delaware City Schools day was revisited at the board of education meeting Monday.

Superintendent Paul Craft presented the board and administration with a new “two-tiered” busing proposal and new start times for the schools that more resembles the current schedule than a “radical” proposal put before the board Feb. 3 that would have moved back Dempsey Middle School’s day nearly an hour and a half.

In the current system, tier one involves 32 buses that transport students to and from Hayes High School and Dempsey. Tier two uses 30 buses to get students to and from the elementary schools and Willis Intermediate School.

The results are bus transfers for students to keep transportation on schedule, two waves of dismissal for some schools and traffic congestion at Willis and Dempsey where students make transfers.

It’s not just a matter of current problems, said superintendent Paul Craft. When construction begins at Dempsey, there won’t be enough room for the bus line-up that currently fills the parking lot. The current system then becomes obsolete at Willis after construction is finished on the elementary schools, and fifth and sixth grade students are moved back into the elementary schools.

Administrators also want to separate the junior high students from the high school students, who currently share busing routes.

Currently, the school day at Hayes High School starts at 7:25 a.m., followed by Dempsey Middle School at 7:35 a.m., Willis Intermediate School at 8:30 a.m. and the elementary schools at 8:45 a.m.

Under a new “three-tiered” proposal presented by Craft and by Director of Facilities and Transportation Jason Sherman Monday, Hayes would continue to start at 7:25 a.m., while Dempsey students would now hear the first class bell at 7:40 a.m. Elementary schools and Willis would maintain their current start times and would be bused together.

Students would be dropped off by buses 10 minutes before the start of class and would be picked up 10 minutes after the end of the school day under the new proposal.

“We went back and looked at what we were trying to achieve,” Craft said. “We think we can achieve a lot (within this schedule).”

The schedule would allow for the separation of Dempsey and Hayes students; Craft said this would prevent behavioral problems sometimes seen when the two groups are brought together on the buses. Rural routes would likely still bus Hayes and Dempsey students together, Sherman said.

The proposed schedule also would increase the elementary school day by 30 minutes. This extra instructional time is valuable, Craft said.

“We had the shortest elementary school day in Delaware County and the second shortest in the state,” he said.

The proposed route would also eliminate transfers for the Hayes and Dempsey students.

“We won’t be having kids, for example, at Hayes to ride to Dempsey.” “That will be eliminated. They’ll take their bus directly to Hayes or to Dempsey.”

Board member Debbie Rafeld had expressed concerns over the proposal made in February, which moved Dempsey’s start time to 9:05 a.m. She had questioned Sherman and Craft about how students at the middle school would be able to continue participating in league sporting events with a start time far later than other middle schools in the area. She was also concerned about how that would affect the after-school time for students participating in the extracurriculars to eat dinner and complete homework.

She said the new proposal alleviates her fears.

One original goal will likely not be met, Sherman said.

“One thing this plan does not address that we had hoped to do was have extra buses at the end of the day,” he said.

Buses are used for extracurricular activities and sports after school, but the current busing schedule leaves very few buses for those trips. Sherman said buses will still be available, but the proposed schedule will not increase the number of buses available.

“Since we’re transporting the bulk of our students at the end of the day still, that would leave a shortage of buses for our sports teams and extracurriculars,” he said.

Sherman said there is still a lot that needs to be determined with the new route proposal. The same number of buses will continue to run, and the routes will need to be completely reworked. He said expects the increase in mileage to be negligible.

“The devil is in the details and that’s what we’ll find out when we starting building the routes with our routing software,” he said. “Hopefully we can get a lot of this done this spring.”