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Students late to school, How a New Bell Schedule Could Help

October 17, 2017

Dozens of students at Corr Elementary in Gibsonton are late to school every day. Some days they wait nearly an hour for a bus ride home, and it's not their fault.

Last year, 12,000 students in Hillsborough County were late to school every day. The existing schedule does not allow enough time for buses to complete their routes between schools.

“We’ve missed a lot of our school time in the morning,” said Corr Elementary fifth grade student, Yajaira Mendez.

“It makes my heart rush to get my breakfast and to get to class on time,” said Corr Elementary student Jace Williamson.

Corr Elementary School Assistant Principal Scott Valdez insisted it’s a persistent problem. “Depending on the day, we have anywhere between one and three buses that are late each day. So, you’re talking that we have an impact of 60 to 180 kids, which puts us back for the cafeteria, which affects instruction. If you multiply all those minutes out, you’re talking about hundreds maybe thousands of minutes of instruction per day,” said Valdez.

Danae Merino, a mother of two Corr Elementary School students, has to be at work at 5 o’clock in the morning. She doesn’t like that the kids’ aging grandmother has to stand out with the students at the bus stop for so long. “The bus always arrives like an hour late and that’s every day. It happens in the morning and the afternoon,” said Merino.

HCPS Bus Driver Darin Murdaugh said drivers do their best to get the students to school on time, but it’s tough with the current bell schedule. “I have a full run in the morning and a get them here at 7:45, then I have to go out and do another one. I get them here about 8:10. (School starts at 8 a.m.) We’re late from the beginning,” said Murdaugh.

“Sometimes I miss the teacher talks. I miss sometimes what she says,” said Corr Elementary fifth grade student, Angeling Ramos.

“It really puts the teachers in a bind, because they’re having to wait to start their lessons sometimes, because there’s so many kids coming. We’ve got parents that are being late to work, because they are waiting at the bus stop, or they feel like the bus is too late, and they’re bringing them in. It really affects not just the bus schedule, not just the kids, not just the cafeteria, it affects everybody - it’s a domino effect,” said Valdez.

Tuesday night, the School Board voted on a new bell schedule that would begin in August 2018:

School Type

Start Time

End Time

Early Release Mondays

Elementary School

7:40 am

1:55 pm

12:55 pm

Elementary Magnet School

8:45 am

3:00 pm

2:00 pm

High School

8:30 am

3:25 pm

2:25 pm

Middle and High Magnet School

8:30 am

3:25 pm

2:25 pm

Middle School

9:25 am

4:20 pm

3:20 pm

 NOTE: Several schools will have changes to this schedule because of individual needs

* ERT schools will have same schedule Monday through Friday

For more information: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/

“We needed to make a change with plenty of advance notice, so families and staff could plan ahead,” said HCPS Superintendent Jeff Eakins. “And we needed to make a change based on a major effort to reach out and gather input from our community.”

The proposal came from the district’s Bell Schedule Survey, which was available in English and Spanish. Nearly 57,000 people took the survey and indicated a preferred bell schedule.

Because buses would start their days on elementary school routes, they’ll be more consistently on-time at their elementary school bus stops.

Several students said they support the switch.

“It’ll be better, because at least we have a bus, and it’s not late,” said Mendez.

“It’ll give kids time to eat their breakfast,” said Williamson.

“I think it’s going to be good, because I like going to school, sometimes I like to get extra time to do my reading,” said Ramos.

Bus drivers appreciate the extra minutes between grade-level start and end times. “It gives us a little leeway in between,” said Murdaugh.

“We need a solution for the good of the kids,” said Merino.

School leaders can see the benefits. “If you can stagger that out, if you can get the kids to school earlier, the traffic should be lighter. It also gives the parents the opportunity to be able to drop them off if they would like to, and then also for them to be able to get to work on time. We’re hoping that this change will be beneficial all around,” said Valdez. “Change is very challenging at times. A lot of times if you just give it a chance, you’ll see the benefits as time goes on.”

For a list of bell times by school: http://www.sdhc.k12.fl.us/docs/00/00/18/55/Proposed_Bell_Times_By_School.pdf

For the latest happening at Corr Elementary follow the school on Twitter: https://twitter.com/HCPSCorrElem

For more information about Corr Elementary: http://corr.mysdhc.org/

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