Licking Heights administrators are considering ending Licking Heights High School students' school day at 2:15 p.m. -- 18 minutes earlier than the current 2:33 p.m. end time -- to help keep the district's school buses running on time.
"Some buses are still arriving at West (Elementary School) 20 minutes late," said Philip Wagner, Licking Heights superintendent.
Wagner stressed the high school schedule change is only being considered, and there would be plenty of notice to parents and students before such a change would be implemented.
If the school day were to be shortened, three minutes would be shaved from each class period -- changing them from 50 minutes to 47 minutes. The time teachers work each day would remain the same. They would have a few extra minutes each day for curricular review.
"I'm not happy about this option," said Wagner, adding the new class schedule would be a "short-time fix" that would only last up to a year if implemented.
"If anything, I'd like to add class time," he said.
However, there might not be a choice. Wagner said student bus ridership has steadily increased over the last several school years -- 7 percent for the 2010-2011 year, 8.5 percent for 2011-2012, 11 percent for 2012-2013, and 9.5 percent for 2013-2014.
"That mirrors enrollment (increases)," he said.
Wagner said the district currently uses a "three-tier" bus system, whereby each bus runs three routes and adheres to a strict schedule.
As the ridership increases and more stops are added, each route becomes steadily longer until it's nearly impossible for each bus to complete its routes on time.
Wagner said shortening the high school's day by 18 minutes would allow buses to use a four-tier system, completing four routes.
"It would help," he said.
Some of the transportation challenges facing the district include finding qualified bus drivers -- who must train for six weeks before taking the wheel -- and affording new buses.
Wagner said the bus routes are being audited to see if any of them can be shortened. He said allowing transportation employee overtime when necessary would help as well.
A shorter high school day is not an optimal solution, Wagner said, but it would place the buses back on schedule for the short term and would not add significant district expenses.
"It looks like this is the direction we're going," he said. But, "It's still in the study phase."