Plan to trim Moorhead busing costs may mean late start to school day

/ 23 April 2012 / jennifer

Helmut Schmidt, Fargo-Moorhead INFORUM, April 23, 2012 –

MOORHEAD – The Moorhead School District could save as much as $250,000 a year in busing costs, but elementary schools could start up to 50 minutes later under plans presented Monday night for the district to revamp its bus routes.

Changes in school starting and ending times will come no matter what, as teachers recently agreed to add 15 minutes to the school day, Assistant Superintendent Wayne Kazmierchak told the school board in an informational session on the issue.

He acknowledged that changing start and dismissal times can be an emotional issue, as it affects the schedules of all families. The last time Moorhead changed its bell times was in 2004, he said.

“We just know we’re going to have to make a decision,” he said. “The status quo is not going to work” with the longer school days.

Adding impetus to the change is Moorhead’s cost per student bused. Moorhead spends $615.67 annually to bus each student. Other districts spend far less, he said, offering as examples Detroit Lakes, $427.18; Buffalo, $336.14; Brainerd, $464.86 and Forest Lake, $429.03.

“We’re quite high,” Kazmierczak told the board.

The district now has 51 morning and 51 afternoon regular routes.

Kazmierczak said 29 different scenarios have been worked through in trying to cut costs, accommodate the longer school days, and still make the schedule work for sleep-deprived teens and extracurricular activities.

Of six possible plans presented to the school board, scenarios 1 and 2 save $250,000 each, and cut bus routes to 46 in the morning and 46 in the afternoon.

Scenario No. 1 calls for the elementary schools to run their day from 9:10 a.m. to 3:55 p.m.; Horizon Middle School from 7:55 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.; and Moorhead High School from 8:15 a.m. to 3:20 p.m.

Scenario No. 2 calls for all of the schools to start and end 10 minutes earlier than under scenario No. 1. Elementary schools would run their days from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.; Horizon would go from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and the high school from 8:05 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.

This year, the elementary schools run their days from 8:20 p.m. to 2:50 p.m.; Horizon from 7:45 a.m. to 2:15 p.m.; and the high school from 8:25 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

A third scenario saves about $200,000. The elementary schools would start at 8:35 a.m. and end at 3:20 p.m.; the middle school would start at 7:45 a.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.; and the high school would start at 8:50 a.m. and end at 3:50 a.m. It has 48 morning and 46 afternoon routes.

A fourth scenario saves about $150,000 and has the elementary schools starting at 8:30 a.m. and running to 3:15 p.m.; Horizon going from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; and the high school from 8:45 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.

Board member Michael Siggerud said he’s not a fan of 7:45 a.m. school starting times. He urged district staff to keep in mind research that shows sleep deprivation affects grades, tardiness, health and increased rates of depression.

“It’s worth looking at,” Siggerud said. “We’re paying the price in achievement.”

Board Chairwoman Lisa Erickson urged parents, teachers and students to attend their schools’ Parent Teacher Advisory Council meetings to weigh in on the issue, calling them “absolutely essential.”

“Those are an opportunity to have your voice heard,” she said.

Kazmierczak said he would like to be able to bring a recommendation to the board by May 29.



Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583