After vocal protests from students and parents, Chicago Public Schools officials are scaling back plans to change start and dismissal times at many of the district's campuses.
The school system announced Monday that it will not change bell times at 34 schools whose patrons have expressed concerns. Forty other schools have agreed to time shifts, and eight others accepted a time change after the district modified what it had proposed.
Chicago officials sought the schedule change in an effort to operate its buses more efficiently. As initially proposed, the schedule changes at 82 schools--some starting earlier, some later--would have saved $9 million. But students and families at many of the affected schools objected to the disruption that would result from the time shifts.
The scaled-back changes will reduce transportation costs by $5 million.
"Despite the need for savings, we are recognizing the calls from students, parents and educators to place a greater emphasis on scheduling after-school activities and reducing inconveniences," Chicago Schools CEO Forrest Claypool says. "We appreciate the 82 principals who worked with us to minimize disruptions and protect in-school time, and we are grateful to the 48 among those who helped us find savings that will benefit all schools.”
The plan to shift bus arrival times resulted after an analysis found that Chicago's school transportation costs outpace those at other large urban districts.
The Chicago school system says is one of only a few major districts in the nation that doesn’t stagger its elementary and high school start times; as a result, the average cost for Chicago to transport a student is more than triple the median cost for districts with more than 100,000 students. Chicago buses make an average of 3.2 runs per day, and comparable districts make 5.1 runs. That results in Chicago's paying an average of $4,450 per student; other districts pay $1,250, according to data from the Council of Great City Schools.
Chicago Public Schools, the nation's third largest with about 400,000 students, is facing a $1.1 billion operating deficit. The effort to reduce transportation costs is part of almost $200 million in cuts to central office, operations and programming.