Wednesday, September 20, 2006

District to modify school schedule

School-day start times, bus routes to change next month

Express Staff Writer

Today, some Blaine County students will spend nearly two hours riding the school bus. However, the school district hopes to drastically limit the time students will ride buses next month.

The Blaine County School District board of trustees voted last week to change school-day start times and bus routes in order improve bus transportation across the district.

"This is about getting kids to school and home as quickly as possible," said Jim Lewis, Blaine County School District superintendent.

The district will implement a new school schedule Tuesday, Oct. 3, with elementary, middle and high school times to change.

Elementary schools in the southern Wood River Valley will experience the greatest changes. The school day for Bellevue, Woodside, and Hailey elementary schools will change by 30 minutes, with the morning bell to ring at 8 a.m. and the release time set at 2:30 p.m.

"The main reason we are doing this is to make the school day better for students," Lewis said.

The board voted Friday, Sept. 15, to modify school schedules and change bus routes after pressure mounted regarding the district's busing system.

"The bottom line is the routes got longer and longer, and more convoluted and convoluted," Lewis said.

This year the district added two pilot preschools, opened Woodside Elementary in Hailey, and provided dual-immersion shuttles in the district's shift to neighborhood schools. The increased busing needs resulted in longer bus routes, with students spending more time in transit.

"If we change the bus routes, we would save 274.4 hours of children bouncing on a bus per day," Lewis said.

Across the district, 1,000 kids, or one-third of the student population, ride the bus.

The change adds a new bus route to serve Hailey Elementary School. The route will service the Della View, Foxmoor and Deerfield areas, as well as areas north of Carbonate Street in Hailey. Another route will be added to serve the district's kindergarten students. In total, the service will require one additional bus, costing the district an additional $5,000 per year.

With the revised schedule, the district hopes that students will spend a maximum of 30 minutes on the bus per route. All elementary-aged bus riders will depart school 10 minutes after dismissal. All middle school kids will be gone 20 minutes after bell time.

Bellevue Elementary School Principal Angie Martinez said some students wait upwards of 40 minutes after school for the bus. With the changes, teachers and paraprofessionals will spend less time waiting with students for the bus.

The changes enable the district to bus elementary and secondary schools separately in the afternoon. Bus transfers will be eliminated except for dual-immersion students. The schedule should also help with transportation during winter.

"It also gives us some flexibility in the winter when the roads get bad ... Hopefully we will be able to get to school on time even in bad weather," Lewis said.

And the changes should reduce some traffic on state Highway 75.

"Rather than a lot of our buses on 75, our buses will be in the neighborhoods. It should take some pressure off Highway 75," Lewis said.

(Please refer to the graphic in the printed edition of the Wednesday, September 20, 2006 Idaho Mountain Express for detailed changes to Wood River Middle School and High School time schedules. Bus numbers and routes will also change.)

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