Austin Public Schools discussing different start times

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(ABC 6 News) – A shortage of bus drivers is forcing Austin Public Schools to look for solutions.

The Bell Time Study was conducted due to the inefficiencies that APS currently has in its busing system.

The study started in October and just recently concluded that APS would have to have alternate start and stop times to make the bussing more efficient.

APS has roughly 5,000 students but the district contracts about 25 buses and there are only 22 buses to help move those students.

"Austin is 133 square miles of transportation so it takes us 15 minutes to get from the center of town to the edge of the district," Andrew Adams, Executive Director of Finance and Operations at APS, said. "And then it takes another 15 minutes to get back. So, that’s half an hour and that doesn’t even give you time to pick kids up."

Because of the different stop and start times, the district is looking to group the elementary schools together, the middle schools together and the high schools together.

"We just need to weigh the benefits, the pros and the cons and just see which one is heavier and then have to go with that route. You can’t please everybody," Tom Compton, President of the Austin Education Association (AEA), said. The AEA is a local teachers union.

This new system would alleviate students being on the bus for up to two hours down to no more than 50 minutes. This would be one of the many outcomes the Bell Time Study is trying to address.

"One of the other things we hope this allows for is for more people to take advantage of the bus and increase attendance for kids because the current system is just not equitable to all families," Adams said.

APS would be able to regain some of those kids and get them back on the buses.

"People need time regardless of what the decision is that is made by the board. People need time to plan for it and we need time to plan for it, right?" Adams said.

But another concern is this may affect parents with children in multiple grades or teachers with kids in the district.

"We need to know if this is going to affect more people negatively than positively and then the board just needs to make sure that is in their decision-making process," Compton said.

This is not a final decision. Questions still need to be reviewed and answered by the school board. This will be discussed further at a special school board meeting on Monday.

APS parents are encouraged to reach out to the district with any questions or concerns.