Five schools could see new start times this fall as part of the Wake County school system’s annual balancing act of trying to give bus drivers enough time to get students to and from school.
School administrators will recommend Tuesday changing the bell schedules for Apex High, Wake Forest Middle and Apex, Heritage and North Forest Pines elementary schools. Time changes range from 10 to 90 minutes.
All of the proposed changes, which are scheduled to be voted on by the school board on March 21, are built around Wake’s bus system.
Wake has 762 school buses on the road each day transporting more than 75,000 riders. Wake uses a three-tier bus system in which school times are spaced out so that drivers can make multiple runs in the morning and afternoon.
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The proposed changes are:
▪ Shift Apex High 15 minutes earlier, from 7:10 a.m. to 2:03 p.m., because it will take more time to transport students to the new Green Level High in Cary, where Apex High students will spend the next two years while their campus is rebuilt.
▪ Shift Apex Elementary 45 minutes later, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., to help the drivers who transport Apex High students have enough time to get to schools that start around 8:30 a.m.
▪ Shift Heritage Elementary in Wake Forest 15 minutes later, from 8:25 a.m. to 2:55 p.m., so more students get to school on time and students don’t have to wait as long for buses in the afternoon.
▪ Shift North Forest Pines Elementary in North Raleigh 90 minutes later, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., so that students can ride the bus with students from Forest Pines Elementary.
▪ Shift Wake Forest Middle 10 minutes earlier, from 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.
Times are also being proposed for four new schools opening in August.
Hortons Creek and Rogers Lane elementary schools would run from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. River Bend Middle would run from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m. North Wake College and Career Academy would operate from 7:25 a.m. 2:18 p.m.
Wake’s 2017-18 bell schedules continue the pattern of high schools typically starting at 7:25 a.m., middle schools at 8:15 a.m. and elementary schools at 9:15 a.m. It goes against research saying middle schools and high schools shouldn’t start before 8:30 a.m. to give teens more time to sleep.
But Wake, which has a shortage of drivers, would be hard pressed putting enough extra buses on the road to start middle and high schools later. Transportation officials are looking at raising bus driver salaries because it’s so hard getting people to stay in the position.