RECAP: Columbia Public School busing system still under discussion

Monday, February 11, 2013 | 4:02 p.m. CST; updated 5:29 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, April 3, 2013

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board has been considering plans for a three-tier bus system that would change school start times.

A plan featuring a 9 a.m. start time and 4:05 p.m. dismissal for Columbia's high schools — the first choice of Superintendent Chris Belcher and the district's busing company, First Student — will be presented to the board Monday night. The three tiers would begin at:

    1. 7:30 a.m. for middle schools and 7:40 a.m. for seven elementary schools (Lee, Midway Heights, New Haven, Ridgeway, Benton, Rock Bridge and Two Mile Prairie). Middle schools would dismiss at 2:35 p.m. and the elementary schools would at 2:40 p.m.
    2. 8:20 a.m., with dismissal at 3:20 p.m.
    3. 9 a.m., with dismissal at 4:05 p.m.

For Missourian members, here's a recap of what has been going on:

On Sept. 14, Columbia Public Schools began examining its transportation system knowing routes would have to be adjusted to accommodate the opening of Battle High School in August 2013. The district's busing contract with First Student will be up at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.

At a Columbia Public Schools work session on Sept. 20, Superintendent Chris Belcher brought up the idea of a three-tier bell schedule that would change school start and stop times. 

On Oct. 10, Columbia Public Schools hosted a World Cafe event that gave district employees and residents a chance to bring up any concerns with changing school transportation and start times. Two main questions were discussed:

        • Is it worth it to switch from the current elementary and secondary transportation system, a two-tier bus system, to a three-tier bus system?
        • If the bus system changes, how would that affect school start times?

On Dec. 9, the board's Ad Hoc Transportation Committee narrowed the number of options for school start times to two. The board was set to vote on them in February.

On Jan. 11, the Missourian published an article detailing the "vehement opposition" of students across the Columbia Public School District to proposed changes of school start times. Jillian Dos Santos, a 10th-grader at Rock Bridge High School, created a Facebook page and Twitter account giving students a place to protest the changes.

Following a board meeting Jan. 14 in which parents, students and administrators voiced opposition to the proposed changes, the board agreed that the proposal for start times needed to change.

Last Friday, Belcher and First Student advocated the three-tier plan for a 9 a.m. start time and 4:05 p.m. dismissal for Columbia high schools. 

The board has five other options under consideration and will announce its transportation decision for the 2013-2014 school year on March 11.

Supervising editor is Laura Johnston.


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