Hillsborough County surveying parents on school start times

Posted at 4:54 AM, Aug 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-25 09:05:24-04

Too many students are showing up late for class in Hillsborough County. The school district says it's because the bus drivers are being stretched thin. It's one reason officials want to change class schedules.

Josephine Amato took her shot at picking when the school bell should ring starting next school year. The district offered a bell schedule simulator, which they say is a way for parents to understand the obstacles the district faces - meeting state education minimums while also giving bus drivers enough time to pick students up and drop off.

Right now, high school students begin class at 7:30 AM, elementary start at 8 AM, and middle at 9 AM. 

The district says bus drivers have just 27 minutes to drop off high school students, pick up elementary school kids and get them to class. With traffic, it's tough and the district says its making some students tardy. The district says: 

"There is also a financial concern because the district spends more than $2 million to hire additional drivers to meet the current school schedule."

Which is why they are proposing high school students start at 7 AM. Amato says that's a terrible idea. 

"If we start having high schooler's start the day so early it will impact their educational outfit. It's just will. It's science," she said. "Mark my words, change the bell schedule and we will still have a late bus next year."

That's because Amato says the problem is bigger than start times.

"Our transportation issue has been there for over 10 years," she said. "We don't have enough buses, we don't have enough drivers and they have not invested in the infrastructure."

The new bell times would also affect magnet schools. Currently those schools are on a separate bus schedules than regular schools. Meredith Kampreth says the majority of parents at MacFarlane Park Elementary want it to stay that way.

She says many of the parents spend up to an hour driving their kids to the magnet schools - students come from all over the district, so changing the start times based on busing issues, in her opinion, wouldn't make sense.

"It's not just a transportation issue, it's an overall budget shortfall issue," she said. "There are other ways to fix that, looking at the bigger picture throughout the whole community."

Friday, August 25th, 2017 is the last day the district will accept feedback from the bus schedule simulator, but it says it will continue seeking feedback in September via survey's and meetings. 

Parents will receive a survey via email in early September and four public meetings will give families more chances to offer feedback and ask questions of district staff and try out the simulation if they have not done so already. See below for the schedule of meetings.
Chamberlain High School
6:00-7:30 p.m.
Strawberry Crest High School
6:00-7:30 p.m.
Jefferson High School
6:00-7:30 p.m.
Riverview High School
6:00-7:30 p.m.
The School Board will vote on a final bell schedule on October 17 and, if approved, will give families nearly a year to make needed adjustments to their schedules.