Among the reasons given for changing the bell and bus schedules was to increase breakfast participation as more fully described in the talking points issued August 1, 2013:
This schedule is expected to increase breakfast participation … As a district with a 75% free and reduced lunch student population, we know that many of our students depend on receiving healthy meals while in our care. Research shows that proper nutrition at the start of the school day directly impacts student achievement. … Our initial intent, when creating bus routes for this school year, was to deliver students on time so that all children would have adequate time to eat breakfast.
The reasoning given certainly seems to make the provision of additional meals a very important factor in the decision to change the bus schedules for the elementary schools. Given its importance, how many more breakfasts does APS project it will serve in FY14?
APS responded to an Open Records request with the following information:
The number of breakfasts served at elementary schools in FY13 was approximately 20,600. They project that in FY14 they will serve an additional 5% or 1,030 breakfast meals during the school year. As there are 180 school days, that works out to an average of 5.7 more breakfast meals served per day at the elementary schools. With 45 elementary schools, the projected increase in breakfast participation is 0.1 additional breakfast meals served per day per elementary school.
The projected number of additional breakfast meals served does not seem to justify the chaos that was caused with changing the bus schedules.
Further, the analysis does not take into consideration the additional breakfast meals that will likely be served as a result of many elementary schools now offering all students free meals.
In addition, the children’s “safety” issue reasoning is not conclusive either – ask the parents
Given the thin level of support for the “additional breakfasts” and student “safety” justifications for changing the bus schedules, what we are left with is the on-time arrival of students at the elementary schools and adding additional time for buses to make on time arrivals at the middle and high schools.
Why didn’t the just say that at the beginning?
By not doing so, the end result is that the elementary schools start at the same time – 8:00 a.m. However, the children arrive 10 minutes earlier than last year and now have to wait 40 minutes before the bell rings. Middle and high school buses arrive 20 to 25 minutes before the bell rings.
By not being up front and clear with the actual reason the bell times needed to be changed – which was to ensure on-time arrival for the middle and high schools – the elementary school children are now subject extending their day by at least 20-30 minutes.
I wonder if the parents who did not want to move the starting bell schedule back by 15 minutes would have responded differently if told that – regardless of their opinion – the bus schedules would be moved back 10 minutes anyway.
What is the lesson here?
APS needs to be straight forward with their plans, communicate it clearly and provide all the ramifications of their decisions to the parents and children affected.