The Bright Local School District was acting on a recommendation from the Ohio Department of Education when it decided to switch to a double route busing schedule for the current school year, superintendent Dee Wright said Thursday.
“It was recommended by the state that we look at it. They estimated we could save about $100,000 a year by double busing,” Wright said. “We’ve been deficit spending the last several years and we’ve cut everywhere else. The state looked at our finances and spending and recommended that this was something we should look at.”
All other public school districts in Highland County already run double bus routes.
Wright said that the move to double busing eliminated three bus driver positions. She said that while district fuel costs will increase, where Bright Local will really save money is in the benefit packages that were eliminated as a result of the three driver positions being cut.
She said that three school buses were also taken out of the daily rotation, which will reduce maintenance costs, and that while there is a double busing schedule, several of the routes have been shortened because not all students have to be picked up on each route since some ride on the first route and some on the second.
A large, boisterous crowd voiced its displeasure at the new bus schedule at Wednesday’s school board meeting, Wright said, but she also said board president Stuart Cox was patient and listened to the concerns. She also said there are advantages to the new schedule besides saving money.
Those includes elementary students not having to get up as early and high school students having more time to eat breakfast when they arrive at school.
Wright also acknowledged that there are some problems to work out. She said some elementary kids are eating lunch at 11 a.m., then not getting home until after 5 p.m. She said the school district is looking at pushing those lunch times back.
Under the new schedule, school for high school students starts at 7:30 a.m. and ends at 2:30 p.m., which means the students start and get out of school a half hour earlier than they used to.
For elementary students, the school day starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 3:45 p.m.
Wright said some of the high school students get on the bus as early as 5:40 a.m., and some elementary students get home as late as 5:30 p.m. or maybe a little before. The superintendent said she can sympathize with parents who have kids in those situations.
A large part of the problem is that Bright Local Elementary and Whiteoak High School are located in the southwestern corner of Highland County, while the school district stretches to the far middle eastern side of the county on the other side of Carmel.
“When you live in Carmel and the elementary and high school are where they’re at, you’re going to be on the bus for a while,” Wright said.
Wright acknowledged that the first day with the new bus schedules was a nightmare, but she said it’s getting better every day.
“I think abandoning something of this magnitude at this time would not be a good idea,” Wright said.
Several parents had contacted The Times-Gazette saying they were upset about the changes. Some said they would call back after Wednesday’s board meeting, but none did.
Anytime there is major change, Wright said, there are going to be issues. She said the district has had a few calls from parents saying the new schedule is working out better for them, but there are also those who are not happy and let it be known at the board meeting.
“I get it,” Wright said. “I think they’re just looking out for their kids.”