[dropcap]R[/dropcap]esponding to feedback from students, families and educators, the Board of Education and Chicago Public Schools are reverting bell times at 34 schools who have expressed concerns about shifting bell times. The adjusted schedules will save the District $5 million in transportation costs rather than the $9 originally anticipated.
“After listening to educators, students and families express their concerns about changing bell times, the Board of Education felt it was incredibly important to work with principals to determine the best options for their school communities,” said Board of Education President Frank Clark. “By engaging principals and learning about the many unintended consequences the changing bell times caused, we decided to rescind those changes that had a negative impact on schools. These changes reflect a collaborative approach that both appreciates our fiscal challenges but still puts children first.”
With 40 schools adopting the new times and eight schools agreeing to another change, CPS still expects to save approximately $5 million. CPS team members worked with principals from every affected school to work on a schedule that would maximize savings while recognizing the needs of our school communities.
Whitney Young High School and Kelvyn Park High School are two of the schools that have staggered starts. At Whitney Young, high school students start at 8 a.m., while the Academic Center students start at 8:53 a.m. At Kelvyn Park, the high school starts at 8:05 a.m., while the middle school students start at 9:00 a.m.
“Every dollar we save by staggering school bell times and streamlining transportation services next school year is one more dollar we don’t have to cut from our classrooms,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said. “Despite the need for savings, we are recognizing the calls from students, parents and educators to place a greater emphasis on scheduling after-school activities and reducing inconveniences. We appreciate the 82 principals who worked with us to minimize disruptions and protect in-school time, and we are grateful to the 48 among those who helped us find savings that will benefit all schools.”
The plan to shift bus arrival times resulted from an analysis that revealed that CPS’ transportation costs far outpace those at other large, urban districts.
Chicago is one of a handful of major districts in the country that doesn’t stagger its elementary and high school start times; as a result, the average cost for CPS to transport a student is more than triple the median cost for districts with more than 100,000 students, with CPS paying an average of $4,450 per student and other districts paying $1,250, according to the most recent data from the Council of Great City Schools. CPS costs are higher because the District runs more buses on fewer routes, as a result of bell times that aren’t staggered. CPS buses make an average of 3.2 runs per day, while similar districts make 5.1 runs.
CPS is facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit as a result of declining state educational funding and a broken pension system. To avoid classroom cuts, CPS is shifting schools’ bell times in order to reduce transportation costs as part of almost $200 million in cuts to central office, operations and programming. By modifying transportation services, CPS is helping to keep resources in the area that is the key to all of our improvement efforts—our schools. These current reductions are critical in the face of inevitable additional future budget challenges.
The majority of CPS schools will keep their SY14-15 bell times. A list of schools with new bell times is available on the District’s web site at www.cps.edu.
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