Midtown: Community

Wake proposing fewer school schedule changes for this fall

CARY - Wake County school administrators are scaling back the scope of recommended school schedule changes for this fall with a new plan today that would leave the majority of schools on their current times.

The new plan now only would change the start and dismissal times for 53 of Wake’s 169 schools with five schools seeing changes of more than 50 minutes a day. The prior proposal would have changed the majority of Wake’s schools with 18 schools seeing daily shifts of more than 50 minutes.

Even with fewer schools changing times, administrators said the new proposal could save $12.6 million over the next two years.

Administrators also presented another option today that would avoid having any school change times by more than 50 minutes. But administrators aren’t recommending this option because the savings over two years would be only $10.3 million.

Under the plan, Davis Drive, Green, Wendell and Zebulon elementary schools would shift from starting at 7:45 a.m. to 9:15 a.m. North Garner Middle’s start time would shift from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. if the school board adopts the staff plan.

Administrators have argued that the school transportation system, which transports more than 75,000 student a day, is in need of an overhaul to maintain state funding and to improve service.

The state funds local school districts based on an efficiency formula that looks at the number of buses on the road and the number of students per bus.

Bob Snidemiller, Wake’s senior director of transportation, said that Wake’s efficiency rating will drop next year no matter what the district does, resulting in a $3 million loss of funding. He said the funding loss is due to strains on Wake’s ability to keep up service in the face of growth and how other school districts are making themselves more efficient by cutting service.

But Snidemiller said the recommended changes would allow Wake to reduce the number of buses now on the road by 60. He said this would restore Wake’s efficiency rating and the funding for the 2013-14 school year.

He said the proposal also would allow Wake to save money on operating costs and by not having to buy new buses.

Snidemiller had previously told the board they could save $10 million for the upcoming year, but the amount was changed to a two-year savings total because of the anticipated one-year state funding loss.

When the initial proposal was rolled out Feb. 7, it called for changing most elementary schools from a 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. schedule to a 9:25 a.m. to 3:55 p.m. schedule. It also had 42 schools making changes of at least 11 minutes a day.

In an online survey that drew 9,452 responses, a number of parents raised concerns that the changes could increase their childcare costs.

Snidemiller said they were able to revise the schedules to eliminate starting elementary schools at 9:25 a.m. while still retaining the savings.

Snidemiller also said the new schedules will give drivers more time to make runs, allowing them to get to schools on time without rushing and risking getting into accidents.

The school board has until March 31 to adopt the bell schedules for this fall.

Deputy Superintendent Cathy Moore cautioned school board members that whatever they adopt may need to be changed if the state leaves in place the requirement that schools extend the school year by five days and 25 additional hours of instruction for this fall.

Wake, like a majority of school districts in the state, have asked for at least a partial waiver of the additional days and time.