KANSAS CITY, Mo. — On Thursday at 7 p.m., the Park Hill School District Board of Education will vote on a recommendation to change the start times for the 2020-2021 school year.
The recommendation comes after the ongoing issue of the nationwide bus driver shortage, impacting the Northland district as well.
District leaders said drivers with Commercial Driver's License, or CDLs are going to either competing districts or working for companies with competitive salaries such as Amazon, FedEx and UPS.
The district currently works on a two-tier system, with 100 drivers, where drivers run two routes in the morning and afternoon. There is an elementary route and a secondary route, consisting of either high school or middle school students.
Because of the current system, drivers have split shifts, and don't qualify for benefits; making retention difficult. That forces the district to get creative on who will pick up students.
"Oftentimes we're pulling trained people who are inside who would be answering phones or providing customer service, well now they've been moved out of the office and into buses and they're highly trained, but ultimately we don't have the service inside the office," Assistant Superintendent for Business and Technology Paul Kelly said.
The board appointed a committee and it's been in discussion since April 2019. For several months, public meetings were held about community concerns for new start times, a change that hasn't happened in decades.
Some people feared start times would require finding options for daycare before school if the new changes take effect.
A Sleep and Start Times work group did research on students’ sleep needs, looking at how changes in start times would impact families. More than 1,000 parents and roughly 400 staff filled out the survey.
The board appointed a School Start Times Advisory Committee, which consists a mixture of staff and community members.
In June, district leaders say the committee was charged with reviewing various start time plans that incorporate a multi-tiered busing framework for the 2020-2021 school year.
"When you move to a three cycle, in which you don't need as many drivers or buses to run three cycles," Kelly said. "In fact, hypothetically you would need a third fewer drivers because they're running route A, B, and C.""
Because of that tier change, the district would have three different start times to accommodate the new cycle of buses.
District leaders said if there is no vote, it's back to the drawing board to find a different way to tackle the issue.