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BoE adopts new start times for school days
Liberty County School District logo

New start times for elementary, middle and high school students in Liberty County are coming for the August 2 start of the school year.

Liberty County Board of Education approved, in a 5-2 vote Tuesday, adjusting the start times for schools in an effort to alleviate a bus driver shortage problem.

Elementary schools will have their start time pushed back from 7:30 a.m. to 7:40 a.m., with their dismissal time going from 2 p.m. to 2:10 p.m. Middle school students will start their school day at 8:45 a.m., rather than 8:20 a.m., and get out of school at 3:35 p.m. instead of 3:10 p.m.

For high school students, the start time will be 8:25 a.m., instead of 8:20 a.m., and the bell to end the school day will ring at 3:15 p.m., rather than 3:10.

“Our children need to get to school on time and safely,” said board Chair Verdell Jones. “I got too many calls this last year about kids on the side of the road for too long. “

An initial proposal called for elementary school students to start at 7:20 a.m., middle schoolers to start their day at 9 a.m., and for high school students to start their school day at 8:10 a.m.

“We appreciate the feedback received form board members and stakeholders.,” schools transportation director Tracee Hill said.

Hill said the new proposal address four concerns that had been issued. It adjusts the time middle school staff and students would get home to earlier than in the previous plan. The new times take into consideration growing traffic concerns in the late afternoon, and it addresses safety concerns for middle school students being picked up after high school students in the morning. The new proposal also eliminates additional fuel costs by running three tiers.

“This is definitely a better plan,” said board member Marcus Scott. “If we had gotten feedback earlier, we’d be in a better place. This is a lot better because they get home a lot earlier.”

ones said she was concerned that the start times for school were finalized just three weeks before the school year begins.

“I struggle too with three weeks before school starts we are making this decision,” she said. “Things happen. This is one of those things. I do have some concerns of children on the buses too long.

“When we’re making a decision like this, we want to be fair to students and parents and staff to make sure they can make these adjustments that quickly. I’m concerned about that.” At the previous school board meeting, Hill pointed out that Liberty County has a bus driver shortage and isn’t alone in that regard.

As of a month ago, the school system had 78 drivers for 85 daily routes. Eight new drivers who have been going through training are expected to be ready by July 28. But the system also is short on substitutes when drivers are out. Hill said the school system has five drivers out on extended leave and averages 1012 callouts per day.

The school system has been trying to recruit new drivers.

“This is an issue,” Jones said. “This has been an issue. It’s not a new issue. We understand there is a shortage of workers, including bus drivers. We have to do more when it comes to looking at our budget and making sure that we are aggressively recruiting.”

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