Final Ideas

    Why are there no options in the final three ideas in which elementary schools start and end earlier?

    The advisory committee members did come up with five different ideas in which the elementary schools started and ended earlier. When they scored all 32 plans according to the Board’s criteria, they rated these five plans much lower overall, so they did not rise to the top to be included in the final three.

    Why are there no options in which high schools start and end the latest?

    Although the Sleep and Start Times Research Work Group found evidence in the research that teenagers have some better health and safety outcomes when they sleep later, the work group also found evidence that a start time after 8:15 a.m. for high schools led to negative effects for both academic and extra-curricular programs for many students. Members of the Start Times Advisory Committee talked about trying to balance these factors when they were scoring ideas based on this criterion.

Bus Driver Shortage

    Why is the bus driver shortage a problem in Park Hill?

    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.

    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 area projects it will need another 3,000 drivers with CDLs for all driving needs in the next three years.

    What other solutions has the district tried to address the bus driver shortage?

    We tried offering job-sharing to allow bus drivers to also be district employees to earn benefits. We also agreed to increases in driver salary schedules to help with recruitment and retention. We used our district communication tools to help with recruiting drivers. We built standards into our contract about staffing, so First Student has incentives to be fully staffed. First Student has used drivers from other First Student locations when necessary. 

    Could we solve the problem by just spending more on transportation?

    Unfortunately, paying more money does not solve problem of not having enough drivers for all the jobs in our region. We already increased driver pay, but continuing to increase causes other districts to adjust, making us no more competitive.

    Is our transportation provider at fault?

    The bus driver shortage is a nationwide problem that is an issue for districts that run their own bus services as well as those who contract with transportation providers, like we do with First Student. We competitively bid our transportation contract, and we include strict standards and expectations in that contract. 

    How does our contract with our transportation provider work?

    Park Hill is in the last year of a five-year contract with First Student, which stores its buses in a lot that it owns at 9 Highway and 45 Highway. This fall, we will request proposals from all interested transportation providers for a new contract that would start in fall 2020. We think that, because we are currently building our new transportation center, we will get a more competitive set of responses from companies that do not own a bus barn in Park Hill.

    Is Park Hill planning to run its own bus system?

    No, we have no current plans to purchase buses or run our own bus system. We are building our own transportation center, which should allow the district to get more competitive bids from transportation providers that do not own their own bus lots in our district, the way First Student does.

Sleep Research

    How have we taken into consideration the research about students’ sleep needs?

    We investigated the research about students’ sleep needs with the help of a group of teachers, parents and administrators known as the Sleep and Start Times Research Work Group. They provided a report to the Board of Education in June.

    What did the Sleep and Start Times Research Work Group find out about the sleep research?

    The work group looked at several meta-analyses of many research studies, including this one from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (External link). The group listed several findings from its review of the data:

    • Elementary student sleep time and related outcomes do not appear to be affected much by different start times.
    • Teens have different circadian rhythms than younger children or adults. As a result, it is difficult for them to fall asleep early and wake up early.
    • Most teens are not getting the recommended amount of sleep.
    • There are significant limitations in the research regarding sleep and start times.
    • For teens, later start times are associated with longer total sleep time.
    • Some evidence shows moving high school and middle school start times later may result in:
    • Some reduction in student sleepiness
    • Some reduction in morning automobile accidents involving students
    • Some reduction in truancy
    • Some reduction in symptoms of depression
    • Results are inconclusive for outcomes related to academic achievement.

Impact on Families

    What did the Sleep and Start Times Research Work Group find out about how a change in start times could impact students, families and schools?

    In addition to the review of the sleep research, the work group also found evidence of how potential changes in start times might impact students, families and schools.

    • In many scenarios, families’ child care needs would likely change.
    • For elementary and middle school students, very early start times would mean bus riders and walkers would be outside in the dark and in colder temperatures.
    • Later start times would mean elementary and middle school students who live at the end of bus routes might be dropped off after 5 p.m. Other impacts for students in these grade levels with later start times include limiting after-school activities and preventing bus riders waiting in the dark in the mornings.
    • Later start times would result in students involved in after-school activities getting home after dark during daylight savings time.
    • Later start times would result in limited after-school activities.
    • Later start times would result in bus routes running during afternoon rush hour.
    For high-school students with later start times, impacts include . . .
    • Student-athletes and coaches in many sports would miss additional class time to attend sporting events scheduled outside the traditional class schedule.
    • Student access to outside community activities like dance or athletics would decrease.
    • Lights would need to be installed on practice and playing fields.
    • Student access to Professional Studies opportunities would be limited.
    • Students who rely on individual transportation services would not be able to use taxis after 5 p.m.
    • Facility access for community practices and activities would be reduced.
    • Some high school practices and activities could occur before school.

    More than 1,000 families and almost 400 staff members filled out a survey for the work group.

    • Results of surveys indicate both staff and families highly value increasing adolescent sleep, and a slight majority of both groups favor changing high school start times to later in the morning.
    • Differences in survey responses were much greater for socioeconomic status and ethnicity than for grade span.
    • Families of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch were more likely to express concern about their students being at bus stops in the dark.

    How will this affect Adventure Club (school-aged child care)?

    Adventure Club will still offer the same opening and closing times, even when it adjusts to the new start times. Rates will also remain the same.

    We are trying our best to recruit more staff for Adventure Club. We have waiting lists because it is difficult to recruit people for these part-time positions, but we usually clear the waiting lists by mid-fall. Many of our staff members in this area are college students.

    When can elementary families drop off students?

    As they do now, elementary families can drop off students 15 minutes before school starts.

Start Times

    What are our current start times?

    Elementary schools: 8:40 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
    Middle schools: 7:35 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.
    High schools: 7:30 a.m. - 2:38 p.m.

    How do other districts’ start times compare to Park Hill’s?

    Other districts in the area have varying schedules. All the districts that are as large or larger than Park Hill have multi-tiered bus route systems.

    How will faculty hours change?

    Because the times that faculty members report to work will need to change when start times change, we will update the employee handbooks with the new schedules once the Board selects the new start times. According to article 31 of the negotiated agreement, teachers work seven hours and 40 minutes a day, and the start times would not change this.

Bus Routes

    Why does a multi-tier framework for bus routes need less drivers than a two-tier framework, like we currently have?

    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 more rounds of students for more schools.

    How do we make our bus routes?

    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. We are only able to grant requests for changes if they meet our safety and efficiency requirements. In addition, we cannot continually change bus stops throughout the year, because it reduces safety.

    How long will my child be on the bus?

    The first rider in the morning and the last rider in the evening must have a ride of less than 45 minutes, according to our contract with First Student. As to likely times, it could be anything from three minutes to the maximum of 45. There is a great deal of variance, so this will be different for everyone.

    Could we reduce the number of bus stops to be more efficient?

    We will not reduce the number of bus stops too much, even though this would be more efficient, because it would compromise safety. 

    If we are trying to be efficient, why did I see an empty bus in my neighborhood?

    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.

    Will elementary and middle school students be bused together or separately?

    We will continue to keep elementary, middle and high-school buses separate. So elementary students would only ride with other elementary students, and so on.

Cost of Transportation

    Do we get state funding to transport every student?

    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.

    How much does transportation cost in Park Hill?

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

    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, picking 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.

    We estimate that a triple route this year would cost $329.45 per morning or afternoon route, each day. This means a bus leaving the bus barn, picking 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.

    How much would a multi-tier bus plan save Park Hill?

    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.