A New Albany-Plain Local committee on April 13 presented the school board with four options to revise school start times and busing procedures.

A New Albany-Plain Local committee on April 13 presented the school board with four options to revise school start times and busing procedures.

Almost 100 people attended an April 14 meeting on the same issue, district spokesman Patrick Gallaway said.

"The committee's goal is to provide the superintendent with a recommendation to present at the April 27 board meeting," Gallaway said.

Michael Sawyers, the district's chief of operations and strategic development, said the committee members took into account the busing cuts and changes implemented after voters rejected an operating levy and permanent improvements levy last November.

The district eliminated busing for students who live within 2 miles of the school they attend, which affected 1,200 students.

The district also cut 10 bus drivers and 10 bus routes for the second half of the school year, and five more drivers and routes will be eliminated in June as part of the $7 million reduction plan approved prior to the November election.

Outlining the options

The K-1 elementary building currently begins classes at 8:55 a.m., the 2-5 elementary starts at 9:05 a.m. and New Albany Middle School and New Albany High School start at 7:30 a.m.

Elementary students attending class in the 1-8 building begin at 9:05 a.m. and middle school students attending class in the building start at 7:30 a.m.

The committee's four new start-time options are:

* Option A, in which New Albany Middle School would start at 7:35 a.m., New Albany High School and the K-1 elementary building would start at 8:20 a.m. and the 2-5 elementary school would start at 9:05 a.m.

In all four options, elementary and middle school students in the new 1-8 building would start at the same time as their classmates, Gallaway said.

The instructional time would be 6 hours and 40 minutes for all students.

Option A would keep bus seating under three per bench seat for all students but the seats could be crowded for high school students.

Busing in Option A includes all high school students who are eligible to ride the bus even though Sawyers said more than 400 high school students now drive to school.

* Option B, which would have the same building start times and the same amount of instructional time as Option A.

Committee member and parent Kisha Jackson said Option B would restore busing for all students in kindergarten to eighth grade, even those who live within a 2-mile radius of the school they attend, but would make the buses more crowded.

Jackson said Option B would be sustainable for only two school years without the district asking for more money.

* Option C, in which the 2-5 elementary would start at 8:10 a.m., the K-1 elementary would start at 8:20 a.m. and the middle school and high school would start at 8:55 a.m.

Fourth-grade teacher and committee member Jim Cullinan said the later start time for younger students would provide more daylight for students who are ineligible for busing and could walk to school.

The option would reduce instructional time to 6 hours and 20 minutes for the K-1 elementary.

Option C also would eliminate busing for juniors and seniors who have a valid parking permit.

* Option D, in which the middle school and high school would start at 8:10 a.m., the K-1 elementary would start at 8:55 a.m. and the 2-5 elementary would start at 9:05 a.m.

The instructional time would be 6 hours and 40 minutes for all students.

Option D would eliminate busing for all juniors and seniors.

Sawyers said the options would be posted on the district's website to obtain feedback from community members.

Potential effects on education

Principal Dwight Carter said if the district changes the high school start time, students would lose five minutes of instructional time during the longer block-class periods two days a week.

Carter said the new schedule would allow more time for teacher office hours prior to the start of school and during lunch periods.

High school math teacher Karen Morlan said she currently offers a math lab from 6:40 to 7:25 a.m. and it is full every morning.

Steven Kish, a high school junior and committee member, said New Albany has high-achieving students who would take advantage of the teacher office hours and not be negatively affected by the loss of five minutes during block periods.

Principal Emily Jablonka said changing the middle school start time would increase students' instruction time in the four core areas: language arts, math, science and social studies.

The high school and middle school currently operate with the same schedule and about 100 middle school students attend some classes at the high school, Jablonka said.

She said she and Carter are working to determine how students could attend high school classes if the two schools had different schedules.

Factoring in busing changes

To handle the remaining students who are eligible for busing, the district is implementing a triple-routing system, which removes a 45-minute layover for buses and drivers between elementary and middle and high school routes, district officials have said.

Sawyers said the committee considered many factors in determining if start times should change as part of the triple-routing system, including:

* The number of students the district is expected to add in the next school year.

* The number of students who can be safely transported per bench seat.

* The number of students who drive to school.

* Research on later start times for certain grades.

* The length of time the changes could be sustained without asking voters for more money.

Sawyers said he and transportation coordinator Linda Honaker determined the district could add three bus routes for the 2015-16 school year, which would increase the number of available routes from 21 to 24.

Sawyers said after the five drivers' positions are cut in June, the district has six permanent substitute bus drivers available if one of the 21 regular drivers requests a day off.

He said if the district keeps three substitute drivers on call and has the other three drive permanent routes, district leaders could increase the number of regular routes to 24.

Committee members used the figure of 24 when considering triple routing and school start times and in developing the four options.