Park City Board of Education considers delaying start times next school year
Discussions about changing school start times in the Park City School District have been on the table for a few years. But, there is a chance that they might finally go into effect next school year.
The Park City Board of Education is considering the change as it reviews its 2018-19 budget, since altering the times could determine if new buses and drivers are needed. The budget was on the agenda for the Board’s meeting last week and was also discussed at its work session on Tuesday.
The Board plans to make a decision on school start times at its March 20 meeting. The options are “to adopt new school start times this fall, pilot the new times at one school, or wait until master planning is complete,” said Melinda Colton, spokesperson for the district.
Several teachers, such as Sharon Maddox from Treasure Mountain Junior High, attended last week’s meeting to express concerns about changing the start times. She said she was informed by representatives of the Park City Education Association that the Board would be voting on start times that evening and said that teachers should be better informed about plans for the change.
Benjamin Kahn, co-president of the association, also told the Board that several teachers and students are not in support of changing start times and that there was a lack of transparency.
The bell schedule being proposed by the Board is two tiered, meaning that all schools would start at one of two times. Currently, the district is on a three-tier schedule. The Board passed a motion to move forward with changing start times for the 2018-19 school year last June but has yet to make the final decision.
The two-tiered option was reviewed by the school bus routing software Transfinder in January of 2017. In the change, some schools would start at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m. They would be Ecker Hill Middle School, McPolin Elementary School and Parley’s Park Elementary School. The others, Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, Trailside Elementary School, Treasure Mountain Junior High and Park City High School would start at 9:20 a.m. and end at 4:10 p.m.
According to a report from Transfinder, the district would have to increase the current fleet size by 109 percent.
The change to start times is being suggested because of research that shows that starting school later supports student health, said Lauren Strachan, a member of a district committee exploring start times. But having buses off of main traffic corridors during the morning rush hour could also be beneficial.
She attended the Board meeting to suggest having a larger gap between the two start times so one bus and driver could work during both times. She said that the cost of the change is too much.
Rich Eddington, director of transportation for the district, said he is worried that drastically changing the school schedules would affect the drivers. If the two-tier system were to go into effect, drivers’ hours could be cut.
“Drivers just want to make sure they can keep their hours and support their families,” he said.
He said that the transportation team is short on drivers almost every year, so having to search for more, along with the possibility of seeing drivers leave if their hours are reduced, is daunting.
The Board said at its February meeting that it is speaking with stakeholders, including city and county leaders, as it weighs the pros and cons of the decision.
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The Park City School District offices were inadvertently locked, but security footage was reviewed and the only two community members who showed up were let in and joined in an informal chat with Board of Education members and staff.