Schools' hours in flux

18 could shift by 50 minutes

khui@newsobserver.comtgoldsmith@newsobserver.comFebruary 8, 2012 

  • The Wake County school board voted Tuesday to acquire two sites, including a vacant movie theater, to relieve crowding at Garner and Panther Creek high schools.

    The school system will pay $1.75 million to buy the Garner Towne Square 10 theater, located at 2600 Timber Drive. The theater, which closed in 2010, will be converted to operate as an off-campus ninth-grade center for the nearby Garner High School.

    The school system will pay $12.38 per square foot to lease a 77,574-square-foot office building at 3700 Pleasant Church Grove Road in Morrisville. It will be converted to operate as an off-campus ninth-grade center for Panther Creek High School.

— Tens of thousands of Wake County families would have to adjust morning routines - from 10 minutes to more than an hour - under an administration proposal to change the start and dismissal times for nearly all of the district's schools this fall.

The move would save $10 million at a time when Wake is dealing with the loss of $28 million in federal funding for the next budget year. Staff presented the proposal to the Wake County school board Tuesday.

Under the proposal, the majority of Wake's schools would start and end 10 minutes later. But 42 schools would see their schedules shift by 11 or more minutes this fall. Eighteen schools might change by 50 minutes or more.

School officials say they will post the proposal online today with the ability for parents to provide comments.

Changing schools' start and end times, with its effects on children's and parents' schedules, is a touchy topic that often leads to parental complaints. School board member John Tedesco said the district should be prepared to educate parents about why the changes are being proposed.

"If we don't, we're going to get thousands of calls and emails about this," Tedesco warned his fellow board members.

Families with children in more than one school could be particularly affected. For example, Davis Drive Middle would start at 7:30 a.m. under the plan, while Davis Drive Elementary would begin at 9:25 a.m., nearly two hours later.

Bob Snidemiller, the school district's director of transportation, said the changes are needed to avoid a $4 million cut in state funding that would result in bus service being less efficient. He said it would also avoid the need to spend as much as $6.3 million more in buying and running additional buses to accommodate growth and the system's new choice-based assignment plan.

"We need to increase efficiency by transporting more students on our buses while cutting our costs," Snidemiller said.

Snidemiller said the changes would allow Wake to reduce the number of buses now in service by 60 and also avoid having to add 52 more buses to keep up with growth this fall.

Wake transports more than 75,000 students a day.

Under the new schedule, the majority of elementary schools in Wake that now run from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. would operate from 9:25 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. In addition, several elementary schools that now start at 8:30 a.m. or earlier like Adams, Davis Drive and Green would start at 9:25 a.m.

Some middle schools like Daniels, Fuquay-Varina, Lufkin Road and North Garner that now start at 7:30 a.m. would begin at least 45 minutes later.

The new schedule proposes that some high schools that now start at 8:05 a.m. - such as Broughton, East Wake, Green Hope and Sanderson - begin this fall at 7:25 a.m. It would put those schools in sync with the majority of Wake high schools.

Snidemiller said the changes won't make a significant impact on ride times.

"The average ride time is 16 minutes," he said. "We don't think it's really going to increase it all that much."

In addition to the financial benefits, Snidemiller said, the changes would help smooth the transition to the new assignment plan by spreading out the start and dismissal times. He said the additional time will allow buses to run longer routes to accommodate choices without the need to add more buses.

Snidemiller said he's confident that the changes will ensure that buses are on campus on time when the bell rings for dismissal. Currently, some buses arrive up to 30 minutes after school ends.

No decision was made Tuesday on the bell schedules.

The school board has until April 1 to adopt them for this fall.

Hui: 919-829-4534

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