Press-Republican

September 30, 2012

School start times pushed back at NCCS

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — CHAMPLAIN — Northeastern Clinton Central middle and high-school students will soon spend less time on buses in the afternoon. 

At a special meeting this week, the School Board approved a motion to start and end the academic day seven minutes later in the middle and high schools to reduce the amount of time students must sit aboard buses in the school parking lot. 

WAITING FOR BUS

As of now, students are released from classes at 3:23 p.m. and board their homeward-bound buses shortly after. 

However, NCCS Interim Superintendent Gerald Blair said at the meeting, those students must then wait about four to six minutes for a busload of students to return from daily programming at Champlain Valley Educational Services (formerly known as BOCES) in Plattsburgh.

“We’re loading all our children, and they’re sitting on a bus waiting for the BOCES bus to come back,” Blair said.  

“The children who get off the BOCES bus have to get on eight or nine other buses, so we don’t dare release (any).”

But by letting students out from class at 3:30 p.m., according to Blair, they will be boarding their buses as the bus from CVES is arriving, resulting in minimal wait time. 

Buses will still leave school grounds at about the same time, he said. 

NEW START TIME

In order to keep the length of the academic day the same, Middle and High School students will start their first classes at 9:11 a.m. instead of 9:04 a.m.

Buses, however, will still pick up students at their homes at the same time and arrive at school at about 8:50 a.m., as they do now. 

“What that does for us in the morning is it gives us a little more time for children to have breakfast, it gives us a little more time for them get in and get organized and find a teacher if they’ve got a question,” Blair said. 

No date has been set for when the change will take effect, but, Blair said, all parents will be notified by telephone before it takes place. 

BUDGET CUTS

This marks the second change in start and end times in the district since the beginning of the school year. 

The district’s 2012-13 budget, approved by voters last spring, called for the elimination of seven bus-driver positions, requiring some drivers to make two runs in both the mornings and afternoons, for an estimated savings of $240,743. 

To accommodate the double runs, the district staggered school start times, resulting in Middle School and High School students starting classes nearly an hour after younger students. 

HARD ON FAMILIES

During the public-comment portion of this week’s meeting, some parents expressed concerns over the new busing schedule. 

Samantha Blain, who has two children in the district, said it has been a struggle to get her son on his 7 a.m. bus, her daughter on her 8:30 a.m. bus and herself to work by 9 a.m.

“I’m a single mom. There’s nobody else at home with me,” she said. 

David Mesick, another NCCS parent, told the board he preferred the old busing system and felt the new one was impractical for students’ schedules. 

“I don’t think you took into consideration the kids getting on the bus in the dark or getting off in the dark,” he said. 

In a separate interview before the meeting, Blair indicated to the Press-Republican that he, too, felt the double runs were not ideal.

While buses are within legal occupancy limits, they are now packed with students, he said, and, in some cases, the first child picked up in the morning is on the bus for nearly an hour or more. 

The solution, Blair noted, would be to add more buses, however, the school’s 2012-13 budget leaves no room to do so. 

“Parents have got to understand that things are very different.

“I’m not exactly sure what the answer is,” he said. 

Blair and other district administrators have been riding buses during regular runs to get an idea of how the new system is working out and whether any tweaks could make routes more efficient.

“We’re continuing to look at it to see if there’s anything else we can do,” Blair said.

Email Ashleigh Livingston: alivingston@pressrepublican.com