UPDATE: Idea of Adjusting to a New School Start Time Next Year Has Some Parents on Edge

The proposal, in the early stages of discussion, would save $350,000 a year, but elementary school start time would be nearly 9 a.m. "We just have to look at everything," Superintendent Pruneau says.

UPDATE: Tuesday, Jan. 15, 10 a.m.:

District 205 School Board President Jim Collins had this to say Tuesday morning with regard to the three-tier bus proposal:

"The board has asked Dave Pruneau and his administration to explore every idea they can think of to reduce the School District's costs without impacting the quality of education we deliver to our students. They are doing the job we asked them to do.

We understand that a three tiered bus system will impact start times in our schools. We understand and are empathetic the logistical complexities and expense of child care and the impact that our decisions may have on the quality of life of our students and potentially on the careers of our parents. I can assure you and the members of our community that we will provide plenty of opportunity for input and comments before we implement any of these ideas.

We are at the point that future major cost saving measures may impact the lives of our students and parents. These are community decisions. They will not be made in a vacuum. Mr. Pruneau is doing his job by discussing these ideas and getting input from as many members of the community as he can."

Earlier: Budget realities unveiled for Elmhurst District 205 school officials Jan. 9 show staffing needs increasing in special education and bilingual education, technology needs are increasing, state mandates are increasing and state funding is decreasing.

So, School Board members and staff are beginning to look at some new ideas for cost savings. Here is just one:

Changing the bus schedule would save the district up to $350,000 a year.

The drawback? It would require a change in school start times.

Superintendent David Pruneau said Monday he has been getting email from parents about this already, even though discussions are in the infancy stage.

"We have to do a lot more exploration into the consequences, both intended and unintended, and what other things we have to do to even consider instituting this," Pruneau said. "There are implications for the teachers' contract, implications for the support staff. There are implications for a lot of areas in the district. We have to work through all that first."

Then, the idea would be discussed at the board level, which would not likely happen before the board's Feb. 12 meeting. After that, the board would open it up for input from parents and community members before a final decision is made, Pruneau said.
How a Three-Tier Bus System Works

District 205 currently operates on a two-tier bus system. That means the buses combine to accommodate both elementary and middle school students in one tier, and both middle school and high school students in a second tier. Middle-schoolers go to school from 7:25 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. High school students attend school from 7:45 a.m. to 3:11 p.m. (with a 9 a.m. start most Wednesdays), and elementary students from 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Going to a three-tier bus system—where the same buses and drivers would be dedicated first to all high school kids, then all middle school, then all elementary—would mean students would be picked and dropped off in sequence.

"If you go to three tiers, you're reducing the number of buses you need and the number of bus drivers," Pruneau said. "But, it makes a big difference in the start times, especially at the elementary (level). You have to build in enough time to pick up high school kids, drop them off, then pick up middle school kids, drop them off, then elementary. The time spread is much greater than we presently have."

To accommodate a three-tier bus schedule, high school students would have to start about 10 to 15 minutes earlier, and elementary students would start as late as 8:50 or 8:55 a.m., Pruneau said. The shift won't change the length of the school day.

"That's a pretty dramatic change, and we know that," he said. "I'm empathetic with parents."

Word of this proposal already has been spreading from parent to parent by email and creating a stir. In general, the comments obtained by Elmhurst Patch are negative toward any such proposal.

"If we don't do something about this now, this could easily be pushed through," said one working mom, urging other working moms to contact Pruneau. "Can you imagine telling your boss you can't start at 9 anymore?"

Change in school start times already caused anxiety for parents this year, the first year the district implemented late arrival days at York nearly every Wednesday. It was an adjustment many parents, especially those on a tight work schedule, had not wanted to make.

But $350,000 a year is a significant savings that could go toward teachers and educational programs, Pruneau said.

"That represents the savings of about five to six teaching positions on a year-to-year basis," he said. "And we have parents who are very concerned with increasing class sizes. We just want to make sure we've looked at all the options so we're not continuing to affect teachers and classrooms. This is one of those options, but I understand it's a big change for parents.

"If we're going to move it forward, I would want a decision in March, so parents have plenty of time to make changes. But again, we're not even at that stage."

It's Not Really a New Idea

Pruneau said that his former district, in Rochester, Mich., also operated under a three-tier bus schedule.

"It wasn't something I changed," he said. "We were already on a three-tier system. Our start schedules were similar to what this would be."

One doesn't have to go as far as Rochester to find the three-tier schedule, however.

"There are a number of districts we have looked at that are starting to move in that direction," he said. "It's not like this is new."

He cited school districts in Batavia, Aurora and Wheaton that already are using the three-tier system "because of the cost savings in transportation," he said.

"It's part of the economic times," he said. "With decreasing revenues from the state, I feel an obligation that we at least need to explore all of these and have a discussion about where the community and the parents want to be with further budget cuts, and what we're doing and not doing."

The bus schedule is just one discussion officials are having.

"There are a couple of others we're looking at right now," Pruneau said. "We just have to look at everything."

Susan Smentek January 16, 2013 at 04:14 PM
The buses are a federal mandate. Our school does a big "walk on Wednesday" program that many of the bus kids participate in, with groups led by parents to cross the tracks. However, when the trains come through and STOP, my kids have been tardy. The school penalizes them if the trains make them late. Driving all these children around to the underpass in individual automobiles is more difficult than you may think. Hawthorne has 600 students. Jefferson is closer to 350, isn't it? If you ask the non-bus using families at Hawthorne about the buses, many of them would tell you that they like the buses because there's no way they'd get near the school at drop off and pick up if 600 kids were using cars. Mind you, there's also a Catholic school and high school on the same block, with somewhat staggered start times. In answer to your question, no, I don't think it's the district's responsibility to get my kids to school. I think it is their responsibility to have a school in my neighborhood, just like you have one in yours.
Susan Smentek January 16, 2013 at 04:18 PM
How is a crossing guard going to deal with a train? If we walk or drive, the bus comes anyway. It's a federal or state mandate.
Susan Smentek January 16, 2013 at 04:22 PM
Hawthorne has 3 buses full of kids.
Karen Chadra (Editor) January 16, 2013 at 05:10 PM
After-school sports prevent the late-start at the high school level.
DAS719 January 16, 2013 at 07:40 PM
I couldn't have said it better KimK!
Kim Kortes January 16, 2013 at 07:41 PM
There are too many kids in our elementary schools for parents to drop off. I don't know about Jefferson but Emerson drop off is a nightmare! More dangerous than a bunch of kids exiting a bus supervised at the building entrance. Parents don't follow drop off rules and kids are crossing the parking lot in every direction. I've seen several near misses. It is no safer. Not to mention the long lines waiting to get to the parking lot and making our kids tardy.
O January 16, 2013 at 07:56 PM
The bottom line here is this, it is a STATE LAW for the district to provide these buses to the students. The district MUST comply with STATE LAW.
DAS719 January 17, 2013 at 12:44 AM
There are 577 kids that attend Lincoln . All of whom either walk or get driven by their parents or caretakers. So you can imagine the nightmare of the car lines there too! The only schools I'm aware of that have buses are Field, Hawthorne and Jackson(which takes in part of Oakbrook) due to the busy intersections that kids would have to cross at.
Robin Belleau January 17, 2013 at 02:58 AM
Come on people! There were only 3 of us at Coffee with the Superintendent. We can't have him thinking this is a fringe issue, because it is not! Please write him and the school board.
DAS719 January 17, 2013 at 03:48 AM
How about cutting some District 205 administrative and all the consultants they hire salaries? How about parents consulting them for free about changes that will affect OUR children?
DAS719 January 17, 2013 at 03:59 AM
What about late starts, that means our kids won't start till 10:00! Why don't we just feed them lunch too while we just sit around waiting for school to start! If we feed them lunch at home, WoW, maybe we can save a whopping $50,000 so we don't have to pay the lunch room staff too! C'mon when will this end!
Todd Roberts January 17, 2013 at 07:12 AM
while I'm all for examining administrator salaries...it's a drop in the bucket compared to the teachers' salaries. Based on 2011 info, of the 624 teachers in the district for which salary info was available, almost 20% of them make over $100,000/year. 15 teachers made over $125,000. On top of that, when they retire, they get 75% of the average of their last four years' salary. Talk about the best of both worlds.
Todd Roberts January 17, 2013 at 07:15 AM
So the reason I send my children to school is to provide full employment to bus drivers? I didn't realize anyone considered a bus driver to be a full-time job.
RMS January 17, 2013 at 12:45 PM
They charge for bus transportation to and from school in district 87
WLA January 17, 2013 at 01:38 PM
One of the reasons that elementary students live so far from their schools is due to the closing and repurposing of schools. Then came overcrowding and higher taxes to address that, now this. What's next. I don't hear about this going on in Villa Park, Bensenville or other nearby towns. If we need to cut back, how about at the administrative level. Someone complained about teacher salaries but check out some of the administrator salaries. Several are over $100,000 and does not include cost of benefits, also plenty of vacation and sick time. These are people who have little impact on our children's education so let the cutbacks start there.
Susan Smentek January 17, 2013 at 02:27 PM
I work mostly in the evening after spending the day with my 3 year old. That's why the switch to earlier start this year negatively impacted my family. Later start equals more time for me with my kids in the morning. I'm happy to do whatever helps the 9-5 parents. It would help me if they would attempt to remember that it's not always about their needs.
8675309 January 17, 2013 at 04:01 PM
Exactly, Todd. Driving a school bus is not a full time job. I drove a school bus for 8 years. I was a single mom trying to make ends meet. I drove a school bus b/c I could take my child with me while earning some money. When she went to school I went to my 2nd part time job before returning in the afternoon to run my afternoon route. I would not get benefits, I would be GUARANTEED 4 hours a day whether I actually drove that much OR NOT. School bus drivers have every opportunity to work extra routes during the day for extra money- also work field trips and such and after school activities all for extra money. So dont say they ONLY GET so many hours. Its like any other job, the harder you work the more you benefit. NO ONE should be driving a school bus alone to "make a living". Many drivers are actually retirees. My child was dragged out in the wee hours of the morning, or woken up from her afternoon nap to head to the bus. Dragged out in the rain, snow, sleet. I scraped ice and snow from my bus in the dead of winter. It was part of my job. I didnt drive a whole 2 hours so YES, I was paid to clear off my vehicle. I sweated my ass off in the fall and early summer. And when I decided I no longer wanted to work 2 part time jobs and I wanted to get health benefits, I moved on to a full time job to really "make a living". Eri, I have no idea what you are getting at, and why any of this would matter for this situation.
8675309 January 17, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Its a part time job- if they want anything more, then they need to go get it by working full time. I am saying this from MY OWN experience, unlike you. AND don't say anything about about paying teachers the amount they are deserved. You obviously havent looked at the salary list for all of our district teachers. Most of them get paid six figures, if not they are close to it and their benefits put them over. Bus drivers actually get a pretty good wage per hour for their part-time work, too. ITS PART TIME. Hello?!?!
8675309 January 17, 2013 at 04:11 PM
And not to mention, bus drivers can work in the summer or choose not to. If they choose not to, they can collect unelmployment. And who pays for that???
8675309 January 17, 2013 at 04:25 PM
I would be willing to pay for the bus, however the state doesnt allow school districts that choice.
8675309 January 17, 2013 at 04:30 PM
MSP- others ways should include cutting administrators salaries and bring them down to earth instead of inconveniencing our kids and us parents. Alos, my child would love to start later for high school next year- and it totally makes sense for the ones who are able to take care of themselves before school, but like Karen said above, b/c of after school activites its not possible.
Kim Kortes January 17, 2013 at 07:11 PM
Seriously? Not always about our needs? Of course it is..if we want to be good parents and provide for our children it is about our needs. I am a single mom and a professional and work at 7am. SOme of us don't have the luxury of making our own hours. I too would love to spend more time with my children in the morning and in fact even see them off to school. However, my job requires me to start early which is what I need to do to provide a good life for my children.
John January 17, 2013 at 08:02 PM
This plan is regressive. Why balance, in part, the school budget on the back of the people who can least afford it (those who require two incomes to maintain a home in Elmhurst). Look at the train schedule - if you work downtown, a 8:50 start time would mean that the next train avaiable would be 10:13 which would get you to the west side of the city at 11 AM...obviously not an option. This is a hidden tax on two income families because they will be forced to pay for additional child care to solve the district's problem. Also, most sporting practices tier their activities with the youngest children practicing the earliest. MANY elementary level sports start at 4 so that middle school kids can play at 5 or 6 and later for teens. Finally, I am bothered by the false dichotomy that is being expressed by Pruneau. All of a sudden we are seeing a "break out" of the cost of this unpopular idea versus the number of teachers and class sizes. Really? This small cost versus the overall budget is NEVER going to get us 6 additional teachers. Is this a "done deal" that he needed to couch it in these terms?
John January 17, 2013 at 08:04 PM
In my opinion, we must ensure two things 1) that this issue will not be voted upon until AFTER the April school board elections given the large number of board members not running for re-election, and 2) every school board member up for re-election must commit to voting against this proposal.
O January 17, 2013 at 11:15 PM
Jackson, Field, Conrad Fischer, and Hawthorne all provide bus service to students.
Kirsten Powers January 18, 2013 at 04:01 AM
Thank you, KimK. I don't see how, as a working parent, I'm being called selfish for asking how the district can make decisions that greatly affect some parents more than others. I don't have a choice about my working hours. My job is not a 'hobby'. It is a job - I earn a living to provide housing, food, clothing, and hopefully, a good education and start in life for my kids. Instead of pitting parent against parent, should we all be asking, "why are they always telling us, "sorry, we have noooo choice except to cut, cut, cut!" It's BS I tell you - this is about funds being mismanaged, an elected Board who hasn't taken a class in public fund accounting, and lack of accountability. $300k, what they would save with this change, is .3% of the budget (less than 1%).
WLA January 18, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Kristen and John, I could not agree more with both of you. I think we can all aknowledge that as parents we have all done what is best for our individual families to provide for emotional and financial well being. For some that means having one working parent, part time or shift work or using rec station or ymca etc. What works for our family may not work for another so there is no point in saying one is better than the other, it only distracts from the real issue. If the district is willing to disrupt so many for such a small return, what is next?
Susan Smentek January 18, 2013 at 11:05 PM
You are misunderstanding my comment. I'm saying "think outside of your own box". I didn't call anyone "selfish" or non-professional, or a hobbyist. We all agree that everyone does what they have to do to provide. My property taxes have tripled since moving to Elmhurst. I expect the schools to be darn good, whatever the schedule is.
Joe O'Malley January 19, 2013 at 02:43 AM
What's next, you ask? Hold on to your hats and get ready to dig a little deeper when the expense liability from the latest lawsuit against D205 is awarded to the parasitic "I'm Entitled" support staff suing the District. The ongoing D205 saga makes you want to puke. FIRE THEM ALL with extreme prejudice. Unfortunately, that would instigate another lawsuit. http://elmhurst.patch.com/articles/settlement-talks-for-school-district-wage-lawsuit
B Rush January 21, 2013 at 07:26 PM
it does seem like the teacher always want everything adn never want to take any cuts like we all had to do


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