School board hears average ride times for bus routes

Monday, November 12, 2007 | 11:41 p.m. CST; updated 9:41 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

COLUMBIA — The average maximum ride time for Columbia Public Schools bus routes is 40 minutes for elementary school routes and 47 minutes for secondary school routes.

Chief Operating Officer Nick Boren told the school board at Monday’s meeting that those ride times are considered “very acceptable.”

Maximum ride time is defined as the length of time from when the first student is picked up to the bus’s arrival at the school. Morning and afternoon ride times were averaged to determine the length of each.

First Student, the district’s contracted bus service, gathered the information at Boren’s request, which was prompted by board members’ questions at an October meeting.

Eighteen routes have maximum ride times of 56 minutes or greater, Boren said.

Six secondary school routes last more than 60 minutes, but these routes involve special circumstances, such as transporting a student from one school to another, he said.

Boren said most secondary bus routes were in the 46- to 50-minute range, and most elementary bus routes were in the 41- to 45-minute range.

Boren said drivers for all routes filled out a form to determine up-to-date information.

Board member Jan Mees asked Boren if it would be possible to estimate the cost to the district if all elementary students had a maximum ride time of 30 minutes or less.

Boren said he could gather the information, but that it would increase the transportation cost “substantially.”

In other business, Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education, presented information on the district’s plan to transition middle and junior high schools to a sixth- through eighth-grade configuration.

Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, Brown said students will attend three schools: one from kindergarten through fifth grade, another from sixth through eighth grade and another from ninth through 12th grade.

Public school students currently attend four separate schools before graduating.

The Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee supported the transition change, Brown said.

She said the committee found that community and staff think the district has too many transitions. Brown also said research shows that more transitions can lead to academic failure.

Brown said the timeline for transitioning calls for input from community and staff during the 2007-2008 school year.

The program will be designed during the 2008-2009 school year, and plans for implementation will be begin during the 2009-2010 school year.

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