Update from July 31 meeting

by Matthew Kenwright,

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTIONS

Dr. Paul Kelly, assistant superintendent for business services, had the advisory committee members introduce themselves. There are community members and administrators from around the district on the advisory committee.

DEFINITION OF TERMS
Dr. Kelly shared some information about Park Hill’s transportation and the language we use to describe it:

  • Transportation provider - First Student

  • Contract - Park Hill is in the last year of a five-year contract with First Student. This fall, we will request proposals from all interested transportation providers for a new contract that would start in fall 2020.

  • Bus barn - Parking lot that First Student owns at 9 Highway and 45 Highway, where First Student stores its buses

  • Transportation liaison - Jim Rich, Park Hill’s director of operations, works with First Student.

  • District facility - We are building our own bus barn and transportation facility, which will be complete in early 2020. This will save us some money, because we will not have to use First Student’s facility, and it will allow us to get more competitive bids for transportation from companies that do not own a bus barn in Park Hill.

  • Bus driver shortage - Districts across the country are struggling to hire enough bus drivers, because so many professional drivers with commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) are going to work for companies like Amazon. In Park Hill, not being able to hire enough experienced bus drivers means that we have more inexperienced, substitute drivers on our routes, and the people who would normally be helping with customer service calls have to fill in as substitute drivers.

  • Two-tier framework vs. multi-tier framework - Dr. Kelly used fictional schools to illustrate how a district with two start times needs more buses and drivers than a district that has three or more different start times. He showed how, with more tiers of different start times, the same buses and drivers, once they drop off a group of students at one school, then have time to pick up and drop off two more rounds of students for two more schools.



ACTIVITY
Dr. Mike Kimbrel, executive director of quality and evaluation, worked with the advisory committee to find out what they were hearing, what questions they believe we should address, and what they think we should communicate.

They shared their thoughts on sticky notes, worked with their tables to discuss and group the ideas into themes, and then walked around to observe all the feedback.


COMMITTEE TIMELINE AND PROCESSES
Dr. Kelly shared how the advisory committee fit into the overall decision-making process.

  • School Start Time Advisory Committee
    This is a Board-appointed committee, which means it is open to the public. It will produce a recommendation to the Board of Education.

  • Scope of the advisory committee
    The Board tasked the advisory committee with recommending a multi-tier student transportation plan that requires less bus drivers and maintains the quality of our student transportation services.

  • History of the plan
    The district first considered a multi-tier plan in 2011, but decided against it. We introduced the idea again in 2018, and presented three options that were very similar to each other in spring 2019. After a great deal of negative feedback, we decided not to change the 2019-2020 start times. A Sleep and Start Times work group met in May and June to study the research about students’ sleep needs and the impacts of changing start times on schools and families. The Board vote in June to move forward with a process to create a multi-tiered bus plan, and the Board voted in July to approve the advisory committee, timeline and criteria.

  • Timeline
    Dr. Kelly shared the timeline for the advisory committee’s meetings, as well as a public open house and reports to the Board of Education.

BOARD'S CRITERIA
Dr. Kelly shared the Board’s criteria for evaluating a recommendation, and he shared that the district would develop metrics, scales and scoring guides for these criteria.

He and Jim Rich, the director of operations, began sharing detailed background information about each of the criteria, which they will finish at the next meeting.

Reduce bus drivers, buses and routes:
The School Start Time Plan will result in a measurable decrease in the number of bus drivers and buses needed to transport students to and from school. Reduced number of drivers will improve the overall quality of service.
Priority: critical

  • Because we currently have a two-tier framework, bus drivers have split shifts and do not get enough hours to qualify for benefits. Because of the lack of hours, lack of benefits and high expectations for student supervision and safety, there is high turnover among school bus drivers.

  • The Kansas City areas projects it will need another 3,000 drivers with CDLs for all driving needs in the next three years.

  • Drivers must pass rigorous training, background checks, licensing requirements, drug testing and physicals.

  • An experienced First Student employee uses routing software to create routes, based on safety, bus capacity and limits for the route times.

  • We consolidate routes to meet our targets for the bus loads and time on the buses. Sometimes, we might see an empty bus because of weather, activities or family schedules. Or it might be at the end of a route or between routes.

  • We worked to help First Student address the shortage by helping to market job openings, agreeing to a cost increase in order to pay drivers more, and offering job-share opportunities with district jobs to help drivers qualify for benefits.

  • Although First Student is an outside company that has to deal with this nation-wide shortage, it creates service and safety concerns for the district and our students, so we consider it our problem. Long-term funding is also a concern.

Align with findings from Sleep and Start Times work group:
The School Start Time Plan will align with findings from the district’s Sleep and Start Times work group.
Priority: very important

  • Dr. Jeff Klein, assistant superintendent for academic services, gave a preliminary description of the work of the Sleep and Start Times work group.

  • He asked the advisory team to read the report from the work group in preparation for the next meeting.

Reduce cost of student transportation:
The School Start Time Plan will result in a reduction in costs to transport students daily with annual operating cost savings redirected to the classroom.
Priority: very important

  • State law requires us to provide service to everyone that lives more than three miles from school, and the state reimburses us for transporting anyone who lives more than a mile away. Thanks to a recent law, we can also be reimbursed for students who live closer for whom we have safety concerns about their walking route. In Park Hill, where there are a lack of safe walking routes, we offer transportation to all students free of charge.

  • Over the last couple decades, costs for transportation increased sharply and Park Hill’s rising enrollment increased our transportation needs. During the same time, the state funding for transportation dropped and then stayed low.


  • In 2017-2018, we spent $7.68 million on student transportation, and $4.65 million of that was for daily routes.


  • Route costs:

    • A regular education single route costs $271.72 per morning or afternoon route, each day. This means a bus leaving the bus barn, picking up students, delivering them to school and returning to the bus barn each morning and afternoon.

    • A double route costs $299.23 per morning or afternoon route, each day. This means a bus leaving the bus barn, pick up students, delivering them to school, picking up a second load of students, delivering them to school, and then returning to the bus barn each morning and afternoon. This requires 98 routes.

    • If we had gone to a triple route this year, as we had proposed, we estimated that it would cost $329.45 per morning or afternoon route, each day. This means a bus leaving the bus barn, pick up students, delivering them to school, picking up a second load of students, delivering them to school, picking up a third load of students, delivering them to school, and then returning to the bus barn each morning and afternoon.

  • Route needs:

    • In 2018-2019, we needed 106 buses and drivers for 199 routes. This included 13 buses and drivers for shuttles.

    • In 2019-2020, we will need 113 buses and drivers for 211 routes. This includes 13 to 15 buses and drivers for shuttles.

    • Using this year’s numbers, a multi-tiered routing model would mean that would need 71 buses and drivers for 213 routes, including shuttles.

    • Our current cost for regular routes is $5,861,386, including $641,618 for shuttles. Using this year’s numbers, a three-tier model would cost $4,332,112, including $168,523 for shuttles. This would save $1,529,274.


Maintain safety at bus stops:
The School Start Time Plan will not negatively impact the safety of students at bus stops.
Priority: very important

  • We put the bus stops into the routing software each year, then we start to receive requests to modify the bus stops. We only make changes if they meet our safety and efficiency requirements.

  • We will not reduce the number of bus stops too much, even though this would be more efficient, because it would compromise safety. In addition, we cannot continually change bus stops throughout the year, because it reduces safety.

  • Some parents tell us they are concerned about young children waiting at bus stops in the dark.

Maintain access to academic and extra-curricular programming:
The School Start Time Plan will not negatively impact current academic opportunities or extracurricular programming.
Priority: very important

  • Background details at next meeting

Minimize negative impact on families:
The School Start Time Plan will minimize negative impact on families, such as negative impacts on child care solutions, negative financial impact to families, and negative impact on access to opportunities and activities outside of school.
Priority: very important

  • Background details at next meeting

Minimize change and disruption:
The School Start Time Plan will minimize the number of students whose school start time changes by more than 15 minutes.
Priority: very important

  • Background details at next meeting

Maintain consistency with benchmark schools and districts:
School start and end times in the district’s School Start Time Plan will be consistent with benchmark school districts.
Priority: important

  • Background details at next meeting


NEXT MEETING
The next advisory committee meeting will be 4:30-7 p.m. Wednesday, August 7 in the media center at Lakeview Middle School. It is open to the public


Presentation slides [PDF]
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