New bus schedules driving some San Dieguito district families to distraction
The school bell will toll a little later on San Dieguito Union High School District campuses, as late start times have been added at Earl Warren and Carmel Valley middle schools.
The schools also have an earlier “zero period” to allow students some flexibility with their schedules.
At Earl Warren, first period starts at 8:20 a.m. If students opt to take zero period, they can start at 7:20 a.m., which about 25 percent of district students do.
At the Aug. 20 school board meeting, Earl Warren parent Dirk-Uwe Bartsch said while the later start time is great, the district has a “backward” and “kid-unfriendly policy” for the bus service that accompanies the start times.
The bus schedules have changed significantly for the 2015-16 school year. Buses must deliver students very early to Oak Crest and Earl Warren middle schools in order to pick up Diegueno and Carmel Valley middle school students on time. At dismissal, this reverses.
Bartsch said in the spring, parents were told that the bus service would be available to bring kids to school for the later start time, and if they wanted to sign up for zero period, they would have to provide their own carpool. However, as the school year begins, it is the later, regular-start-time students who need to provide their own transportation.
Earl Warren students are picked up at 6:45 a.m. and dropped off at 7:05 a.m. for the 8:20 a.m. start time. Bartsch said having to wake up early to take the bus defeats the purpose of the later start time for students. Additionally, students will have to wait around for school to start for more than an hour in the library, which requires district staff for supervision.
In the afternoon, the kids from Earl Warren will be picked up on time, but the Carmel Valley kids will have to wait an hour past the end of school to be picked up to go home.
Bartsch said it’s safer and better for the environment for more students to take a bus than ride with their parents, but because of the “crazy” scheduling, many parents are upset and organizing private carpools. As a result, Bartsch said, there will be more cars at pick-up and drop-off, and the district will see a drop in bus ridership.
District officials have acknowledged that the schedule is beyond their control, and they have apologized for the inconvenience. Superintendent Rick Schmitt said that buses can only run once and not at multiple times because they don’t have the fleet or staff.
Schmitt said with the different start times, they are trying to offer an element of choice and families will have to choose whether their priority is a later start or transportation. For the first time, the district is selling one-way bus passes, so he noted there are some family-friendly options to consider for busing.
Earlier in the year, the district was considering eliminating all middle school bus service because of the high cost and declining ridership. The district gathered feedback from parents through an online survey, and Trustee Joyce Dalessandro said the board stood firm in retaining it, even though it is expensive and the district no longer gets transportation funding from the state.
“To increase our bus fleet or to run a couple times is absolutely not feasible with the funds that we get for education,” Dalessandro said.