New bus schedule would allow students to sleep in
Mother of three, Janice Cassimus was used to a disastrous afternoon. Last year she had to leave her oldest, Lexi Cassimus – now sophomore at RBHS – waiting outside of Jefferson Junior High School while she drove as fast as possible to get her younger two, Michael from Gentry Middle School and Arianna from Mill Creek Elementary School.
Time seemed to speed up between 2 and 3 p.m., she said.
“There just wasn’t any time,” Janice Cassimus said. “I always felt overloaded. You don’t want to have to leave your kid waiting … outside of school.”
Daughter, Lexi Cassimus, wanted to go home at the end of the day. Foot tapping, backpack sagging, she waited outside of the school, sitting on the concrete benches.
“I had to wait for like half an hour or more after school alone,” Lexi Cassimus said. “It sucked.”
Janice Cassimus said she encouraged her kids to take the bus, but after her son repeatedly had bad experiences with older kids riding his bus and causing trouble, Michael opted not to ride it anymore.
“He was so uncomfortable on the bus,” Janice Cassimus said. “The older kids were often inappropriate.”
But, Columbia Public Schools has a proposal that will work to change the complaints. Under the proposal, elementary schools would start at 7:40 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m. High school classes would start at 8:25 a.m. and end at 3:35 p.m. Middle school students begin at 9:20 a.m. and finish at 4:30 p.m.
Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Chris Belcher said as the district grows, the buses must move to a more efficient model. The proposal allows the two tiered bus system to move to a three tiered one next year.
“After some pushback on the proposal, we are refining it to make it more palatable for parents and students,” Belcher said. “High schools don’t want to start too late so that sports and other activities don’t have trouble. … Elementary school parents don’t want their kids waiting for the bus in the dark. … We started with the three tier system because it is the most efficient, but we are changing it around a little bit to fit everyone’s needs.”
Karen Morton, RBHS Secretary to the Athletic Director, worries that the effects of a later start time will be harmful to high school students.
“What about the kids who have jobs after school?” Morton said. “What are they going to do?”
Morton also worries about kids who are heavily involved in athletic programs who would have to stay later at school.
But RBHS football coach Justin Conyers doesn’t believe the added time will affect teams too much. He said the team would have to rearrange their practices, practicing outside first and watching film and meeting after. The only real drawback, he said, would be the time students spend away from school.
“For away games, they still have to leave at the same time,” Conyers said, “so students will miss more class.”
Janice Cassimus likes the proposal because it gives her more time between start times and releases to get her kids ready for school and to pick them up.
“I like the proposal a lot,” Janice Cassimus said. “It seems like a step in the right direction.”
When Battle High School opens next fall, it will break up the town into three rather than two distinct districts. These attendance lines mean that buses won’t have to drive all over town picking up the far reaching kids for a particular school district. The shortening of these routes means a quicker drop off time for children in the morning, allowing bus drivers to make a third pick up.
Currently some early buses pick up pick up kids of all ages, like Michael Cassimus, who had to tolerate foul language and constant teasing from the older kids on his bus. The new proposal would eliminate the age gap on buses.
The changes are not finalized, Belcher said. The committee is looking at all the critique the city has given them and trying to rework a plan that is best for everyone involved. Next year it may even mean a little more sleep for tired high school kids.
“You know, studies show that high school kids normally are more aware more awake the later you start anyway,” Conyers said. “So I think this will probably be a good thing for the district.”
By Maria Kalaitzandonakes
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