Board member Rhonda Lennon called it the elephant in the room during budget talks: What will Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools do, if anything, to address parent and teacher concerns about bell schedules?
Parents and CMS administrators have been meeting since last summer to talk about three big issues: Some people don't like late schedules that end at 4:15 p.m. Some think the 7:15 a.m. start for high schools is too early. And some think previous leaders made a mistake extending the elementary day from 6 hours and 15 minutes to 7 hours, especially since it brought no extra compensation for teachers.
"The models project financial implications ranging from a savings of about $100,000 to a cost of $14.5 million to our operating budget in the first year," Morrison wrote. "The models show that many students across CMS would be affected by these changes. Some students would have new bell schedules. Some students would have to shift to shuttle stops. Some students would have new lengths for the instructional day. And some students and their families would have all three of those changes at once."
The scenarios involve various combinations of actions: Shortening the elementary day by 15, 30 or 45 minutes; moving high schools to a later time slot; moving up the last dismissal time to 3:45 or 4; and making all magnet students use shuttle stops. All scenarios are potentially expensive. They require CMS to add 79 to 250 buses, and even the version that saves $100,000 the first year by reducing the total miles driven is projected to add $1.6 million in county costs the following year because it reduces the state efficiency rating.
Lennon, who represents the north suburbs, and Amelia Stinson-Wesley, who represents the south, said they'd like to see earlier dismissals to keep buses out of evening traffic jams. But I'm looking at those numbers and thinking about the teachers, technology or pay raises that a few million dollars would cover. I don't make many forecasts, but I'm sticking with what I wrote in January: Don't hold your breath for bell schedule changes.