Image Courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Image Courtesy of HopSkipDrive

In this article, we’ll explore some of the reasons why schools are modifying bell schedules. We’ll also take a look at the impact this practice is having on both students and school transportation operations, and review some approaches that may help to minimize potential disruptions when redefining the start and end of the school day.

Why Are School Districts Changing Bell Times?

One of the most pressing reasons many school districts are staggering bus schedules is the ongoing bus driver shortage. Though districts are already doing everything they can to address this issue, staggering bell schedules is another thing they’re trying in an effort to maximize resources. The goal is to get as many students as possible to school on time using the limited number of bus drivers they have.

Another reason for changing bell times? Student well-being. Studies indicate that starting school too early in the morning means students miss out on rest and sleep that is critical to their health.

Insufficient sleep in adolescents has, in fact, been named a public health issue by The American Academy of Pediatrics, which recommends a morning start time for middle schools and high schools be no earlier than 8:30 a.m.

Legislation is another driving factor behind changing bell schedules in numerous states. School districts in California, for instance, started the 2022–2023 school year using later school start times as mandated in Senate Bill No. 328 (which gave districts three years to implement it after being passed in 2019).

Changing Bell Times Present New Challenges

Behind the practice of changing bell times lies the best of intentions, and these changes are having a positive impact in many ways. Changing bell times, however, have also led to new challenges for students, parents and school districts related to things such as after-school activities and transportation.

Older students, for example, have reported that when the school day starts and ends later, they are no longer able to hold part-time, after-school jobs, according to an article published by EdSource. These changes can also make it difficult for students to get to extracurricular activities and appointments, including those outlined by individualized education programs (IEPs).

When school start times are pushed back, many parents/guardians who transported their children to school themselves can no longer do so. School schedules that don’t align with the traditional work day means more families will rely on the school bus system to get their kids to and from school.

By adding additional logistical challenges to an already overburdened school transportation system, changing school bell times can lead to an increased pressure on school districts and school transportation staff.

Changing Bell Times: Approaches and Solutions

When revising school schedules, districts should aim to create practical plans that support the most efficient and effective use of resources while taking the needs of students, families and school staff into consideration. Here are a few things school districts can do.

1. Establish reliable transportation options for all students

No single solution will solve all of the issues that may arise or be exacerbated by changing school start times. There is, however, one main thing school districts can and should do when altering school schedules: Make sure every student has a way to get to and from school safely, and on time, every day.

2. Monitor students who are chronically absent

School districts that are handling transportation arrangements for students impacted by altered bell times should pay close attention to any students who are missing too many days of school. Transportation access has been shown to be a relevant issue for many students who are already, or who are at risk of becoming, chronically absent.

Early intervention can help get these students to school every day and keep them where they belong: in the classroom. Personalized transportation solutions can help.

3. Partnering with alternative school transportation providers

Innovative school transportation solutions can bring cost-effective resources and tools to the table to help districts solve a variety of transportation challenges. Transportation plan optimization, for example, can serve to take much of the burden off of districts and school transportation staff.

No matter when the school bell rings, one thing’s for sure: Reliable transportation solution partners can help school districts by working with them to ensure that all students are able to show up on time and take advantage of the educational and other opportunities that are available to them in their community.

Reach out to get a free quote and learn more about how HopSkipDrive’s school transportation solutions have helped more than 400 districts across the country solve their most pressing transportation challenges.