COTTAGE GROVE, Minn. — Bell times at South Washington County Schools will change from four to three tiers, but student walking distances will remain at their increased levels.
Those are the key transportation-related outcomes of the South Washington school board’s meeting on Thursday. Bell times and walking distances were the subjects of several proposals to improve the district’s transportation service, as SBF previously reported.
Under the option that the board selected last week, an 8:10 a.m. start time tier will be eliminated, shifting three elementary schools to the 7:55 a.m. tier and eight elementary schools to the 8:40 a.m. tier. Also, a non-public school and a public charter school will be aligned with the late tier, which is a 9:20 a.m. start time.
The move is expected to increase on-time bus performance — the district has struggled with late buses in the afternoon for the elementary schools in the 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. tier.
Ron Meyer, South Washington’s director of transportation services, told SBF that cutting the 8:10 a.m. tier will also eliminate the district’s need for contracted busing for its regular-education routes.
The switch to three tiers will take effect at the start of the 2014-15 school year.
Another proposal that South Washington County Schools officials had been considering was to reduce walking distances from 1.5 miles to 1 mile for middle school students and from 2 to 1.5 miles for high school students. The shorter distances were in place before the current school year, when they were increased as a budget reduction measure. The cost to revert to the shorter walking distances for the 2014-15 school year would have been an estimated $143,751.
At last week’s meeting, the school board decided against reverting to the shorter walking distances. Meyer said that the combination of keeping the increased walking distances and eliminating contracted busing will result in an anticipated savings of $268,000.