More than 50 Chicago Public Schools will see their arrival and dismissal times change by an hour or more, according to new bell times announced by the district Thursday.
Twelve schools — of a total of 82 changing to save money on busing — are shifting 75 minutes at arrival and dismissal times, including Melody Elementary School, that will begin in September at 7:45 a.m. instead of 9 a.m. Overall at CPS, schools will now begin as early as 7:30 a.m. and end as late as 4:30 p.m.
CPS, facing a severe financial crisis, projects its overall consolidation of bus services will save $13.5 million next year. About $9.2 million is expected to come from the staggering of arrivals and dismissals, so each driver can serve multiple schools on several runs.
An additional $2.3 million in savings should result from the consolidation of 450 bus stops for children at magnet and selective-enrollment schools to just 180. CPS won’t say until “later this summer” which stops are changing — or how far they’ll move other than to say the stops won’t exceed a mile and a half from students’ homes. Laying off bus monitors will save an additional $2 million.
“Every dollar we save by staggering school bell times and streamlining transportation services next school year is one more dollar we don’t have to cut from our classrooms,” CPS CEO Forrest Claypool said in a news release.
The broke district says it’s trying to avoid cuts to classroom spending in the face of a $1.1 billion operating deficit but has threatened more cuts if it can’t manage $500 million it wants in pension relief from Springfield.
Amundsen High School’s times are moving 75 minutes later, from a 7:45 a.m. arrival to 9 a.m. Dismissal moves to 4:15 p.m. from 3 p.m.
Darinka D’Alessio, a recent Local School Council member whose son just graduated in June, said the new start time will be difficult for students with jobs and will create a hardship for them.
“There are a lot of kids who have jobs and it will mean they either won’t get those shifts or employers will be scrambling to give them shifts,” she said. “It means there are a lot of siblings who are responsible for younger siblings to get to school and pick them. Those things will be really difficult to do, and not to mention the later times for anybody who’s been involved in tutoring or after school activities.”
D’Alessio said she also worries about students who will be taking public transportation home after school and extracurricular activities: “It’s going to be tough in the winter when it’s dark when kids are going home.”
And she wonders if the later start time will hinder attendance.
“A lot of people have said, ‘Oh, it means the kids will get more sleep.’ What planet are they on? The teenagers aren’t going to sleep,” she said. “I think we may end up seeing more absentees or tardiness. If it takes that long, what’s the point of going at all. I think that, overall, it really is kind of a folly.”
CPS said Chicago hasn’t staggered its start times, so it needs more buses on fewer routes than other major districts. Citing data from the Council of Great City Schools, CPS said its buses make an average of 3.2 runs per day, compared to 5.1 runs at similar districts.
District spokeswoman Emily Bittner said some of the schools volunteered to change times, but she couldn’t say which ones. The rest were picked by CPS because they use a lot of buses.