Could schools start as early as 6:50 a.m.?

The school system may change bell times and bus routes to save money. (Photo: File photo)

Changing school bell times, having more students walk to school and discontinuing some bus options are all on the table as possible ways for the school system to save money.

With a budget of around $17 million, the Lafayette Parish School System’s transportation department is the costliest part of the central office. Since annual budget deficits have become common, the district asked Edulog, its routing vendor, to analyze the system and propose cost-saving scenarios.

The final report will be presented to the school board’s executive committee at 4 p.m. Thursday.

New bell times?

The most drastic scenario in the report is adjusting bell times for more than half of the district’s schools. Currently, elementary schools run from 7:55 a.m. to 3:10 p.m. Middle schools start at 8:35 a.m. and dismiss at 3:50 p.m., while high schools run from 7:05 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.

Other specialized schools and academies start the day anywhere from 6:45 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., and dismiss anywhere between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Consultants found that changing the bell times of 26 schools would allow for 25 to 35 fewer buses on the road. The district has a fleet of around 300 buses.

The possible bell time scenarios outlined in the report are as follows:

Acadiana High and Lafayette High: 6:50 a.m. to 2:10 p.m.

Northside High: 6:55 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.

Comeaux High: 7 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.

Carencro High: 7:10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

J.W. Faulk Elementary and Woodvale Elementary: 7:35 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.

L. Leo Judice Elementary and Westside Elementary: 7:40 a.m. to 2:55 p.m.

Myrtle Place Elementary: 7:45 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Carencro Heights Elementary, Katharine Drexel Elementary, Duson Elementary, Ernest Gallet Elementary and Green T. Lindon Elementary: 7:50 a.m. to 3:05 p.m.

Prairie Elementary: 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Carencro Middle: 8:05 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Judice Middle: 8:20 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Lafayette Middle: 8:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Acadian Middle: 8:40 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.

L.J. Alleman Middle, Paul Breaux Middle, Broussard Middle and Edgar Martin Middle: 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“While each of the scenarios isn’t presented in this study, this is the most feasible with the fewest number of changes and the least impact on least number of schools,” the study’s authors wrote.

Walk-to-school zones

Under one scenario, students who live within one mile of school would not be able to ride the bus. If this happened, 1,500 to 1,875 fewer students would ride buses. That would mean 20 to 30 fewer school buses on the roads.

Another option is to eliminate bus transportation for student who live either a half-mile or three-fourths of a mile from school. About 700 students would be affected under the half-mile boundary, and about 730 students would be affected by the three-fourth boundary. This would result in eight to 16 fewer buses for the district.

Discontinue bus transportation for students who live out of schools’ attendance boundaries

The report found that about 2,400 to 3,000 students are transported from outside of the attendance zone of the school they attend. This generally happens for students who attend Schools of Choice academies, or because of route designs.

If this transportation were discontinued, that could mean 30 to 40 fewer buses on the road.

Another scenario would allow students who live outside of their school’s attendance zone to still ride the bus, but only if they first went to a bus stop located within that attendance zone. If this happened, it could result in 25 to 35 fewer buses.

What happens now?

The study’s authors wrote that no matter which scenario is implemented – if any – the school system should provide a year’s notice to schools, teachers and parents to allow them to prepare for any changes.

“This also provides ample time for LPSS transportation to test run the computerized model to allow for fine tuning of stops times based on data collected in a real world setting,” the report stated.

Damon Evans, the district’s transportation director, said it will be up to the board to decide how to proceed.

“We wanted to know the bottom line of what would happen and how it would affect everything,” Evans said. “The one-mile no transportation zone comes up a lot, but it affects a lot of kids, too … It’s the board’s choice at this point. We are just telling them the ways we can save some money in transportation. The only way to save money is to have less drivers and buses on the road. That’s what it boils down to.”

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