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Hillsborough school district's bus woes hurt seven schools
The School Board looks at later start times in south county.
By AMBER MOBLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published October 3, 2007
Kids miss free breakfasts. Roll call gets bumped to midmorning. One parent from A-rated Giunta Middle School worries that academics could suffer.
The culprit? Late buses, some arriving on campuses long after a school day has begun.
Transportation woes have burdened seven south county middle schools so badly that the Hillsborough School Board decided Tuesday night to look into later start times.
"If this was the first week of school, I would understand, but this is October," said board member Candy Olson, who suggested changing times.
Most middle schools in the area start at 9 a.m. and let out at 4:15 p.m.
Parent Michael Lawrence complained that his eighth-grade daughter often misses math class at Giunta because her bus is late. He said teachers have sent word home to parents that something needs to be done.
A change of schedule would require union input, spokesman Stephen Hegarty said after the meeting.
Transportation general manager John Franklin blamed the late buses on a shortage of drivers and a tight schedule. School officials recently launched a pilot program in the region, Area 5, in an effort to improve efficiency.
But that means bus drivers might serve multiple routes in a morning.
Franklin said he doesn't have enough drivers to cover all of the routes.
"In Area 5, the number of vacancies are more glaring ... with tighter routes there's a lack of built-in flexibility," he said.
Districtwide, the school system is 125 drivers short of being fully staffed.
Chronically late buses and staff shortages were two problems listed in a January consultant report that outlined needed changes in the system.
The south county pilot program is scheduled to expand to the rest of the county next school year.
Also Tuesday, the School Board pledged to re-evaluate its school nurse program and a policy that requires a doctor's order for students to take over-the-counter drugs on campus.
Funding cuts cost the district some of its registered nurses and its Healthy Student program, which previously oversaw the dispensing of over-the-counter drugs.
Parents, said School Board members, could end up taking their children out of school to give them something as simple as Tylenol.
"How did we get so far past common sense?" asked board member Jennifer Faliero.