• School start times stay the same after legislative grant to help fuel buses
By Naomi Klouda
High school students can breathe a little easier if they were dreading an early start to their school day when bells ring this fall.
The Kenai Peninsula School District made the decision that the Southern Peninsula bus transportation will remain single tier for the 2012-2013 school year. The result: in the fall of 2012 school start and end times will not change due to rising transportation costs.
That means, high school starts at 8:30 a.m. instead of at the proposed 7:40 a.m. And it will let out at 3:15 instead of at 2:15 p.m. The proposal was to begin some schools earlier in order to send buses out on two routes rather than just the one they currently run.
Costs of providing transportation spiked with fuel costs over the past two years, along with other costs, said KPBSD superintendent Steve Atwater. Since fuel money comes from the district general fund – the same bank account that pays for classroom teachers and programs – the district was looking at cuts to help cover the $800,000 shortfall.
“All of us at KPBSD are thankful that the legislature responded to our request to increase funding for student transportation. I am thrilled that the new transportation monies will allow us to devote more resources to our classrooms,” Atwater said Thursday.
In the closing days of the legislature, the leaders of the Alaska House Majority Caucus unveiled the K-12 education funding plan. It is now awaiting approval from Gov. Sean Parnell.
Funding for transportation (related to SB 182 Pupil Transportation Funding) is included. This means the actual cost of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District transportation for the 2012-2013 school year will be specifically funded by these new designated transportation funds. The funding is based on existing routes from the 2011-2012 (FY12) school year.
Homer High School Principal Alan Gee said he’s thankful for the help as well, though his students weren’t overwhelmingly against starting earlier in the day.
“I conducted a straw poll a few weeks ago, asking the teachers over the intercom to count the showing of hands, and 60 percent said they liked the earlier start time,” Gee said. “There was the thought expressed by some that it would allow them to finish their after school activities earlier.
Skiers thought it would help, because now they ski after school in the dark and that it would have given them some daylight.”
Still, he is glad for the continuity of this year’s schedule into next year. The Homer High Site Council had voted against an earlier start time.
Over at Homer Middle School, Principal David Larson also was glad for a continuation of programs into next year, rather than a possibly earlier school start time. School there starts at 8:35 a.m. and ends at 3:15 p.m.
The site council there voted to go along with the district with the final decision on whether to go to a two-tiered bus system or stick with the one, he said.
“In the end, we said we preferred to keep the status quo but would support whatever is decided,” Larson said.
There may have been some confusion among students about whether a school district decision had already been made, but Larson said it was always clear to him the district was waiting to see how the legislature responded to the funding request.
“I knew we were still waiting to hear about a decision. And I am really happy the legislature is giving us the funding so that now we can plan ahead,” Lewis said.
Atwater said the topic may need to be revisited on down the road, but for now, the funding should hold the district for the next two years.
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