CHICAGO — Forty-eight schools here have adopted new bell times as part of a Chicago Public Schools plan that is expected to cut transportation costs by $5 million.
The plan originally had 82 schools shifting their bell times for a savings of $9 million, but the district agreed to revert the bell times at 34 of those schools after hearing concerns about the changes from families and educators.
“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,” said Frank Clark, president of the Chicago Board of Education. “These changes reflect a collaborative approach that both appreciates our fiscal challenges but still puts children first.”
Forty schools adopted the new times, and eight schools agreed to another change. The rest of the district’s 664 schools will keep the bell times they had in the previous school year.
Chicago Public Schools officials said that district staff members worked with principals from each affected school to develop a schedule that would maximize savings while addressing the needs of the school communities.
“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,” said Forrest Claypool, CEO of Chicago Public Schools.
The district is facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit due to declining state educational funding and a broken pension system, officials said. The plan to stagger bus arrival times stemmed from an analysis that showed Chicago Public Schools’ transportation costs far outpacing those at other large, urban districts.
The average cost for the Chicago district to transport a student is more than triple the median cost for districts with more than 100,000 students, according to data from the Council of Great City Schools. Chicago pays an average of $4,450 per student for transportation.
The district’s bell time changes are part of a broader $200 million in cuts to central office, operations and programming.