Bell schedule may change for LAPS students

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The school district is looking at three different options

By Jennifer Garcia

Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series on the proposed bell schedule changes for Los Alamos Public Schools.

Change seems to be the theme for the 2010-2011 school year. Los Alamos High School students have dealt with construction at the school and on Diamond Drive for months and can look forward to more in the months ahead.

Students might also be looking at a change in the school day if LAPS administrators decide that changing the bell schedule could save some money.

During Thursday night’s Board of Education work session at Mountain Elementary, Transportation Supervisor Keith Rosenbaum said the district is trying to come up with ways to best serve the students and save money. He said administrators have been working on a 7:40 a.m. start time for elementary students and an 8:30 a.m. start time for high school students.

However, there are other bell schedule variations that have been presented to administrators, as well. LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt said there were actually three serious schedule proposals. One proposed elementary starting first; the second proposed secondary grades starting first and the third called for the schedules to stay the way they are.

As it stands, elementary students start school at 8 a.m. and get out at 3 p.m. and LAHS students start at 8:10 a.m. and get out at 3:10 p.m.

Several attendees at the meeting voiced their opinions about the various proposed schedules. They all agreed that there were advantages and disadvantages to each schedule, but none seemed to agree on which schedule would be best.

According to a document that was distributed during the meeting, the district would save $80,000 in operational costs by changing the existing schedule. There also is hope that more students will begin riding the bus, which would result in increased state funding, as well as increased route driver time, which in turn would “lead to better pay and more job satisfaction,” as well as less turnover. The change would also reduce the number of bus routes. Up to three current routes could be eliminated. By reducing routes, the district could also potentially save money on fuel.

Schmidt said as the district goes through the budget cycle, administrators are looking at “all kinds of options” to save money.

“We looked at the bell schedule. Is there an operating efficiency that we can benefit from
 financially by changing the bus delivery?” he said.  “We’re trying to understand. It’s not just about saving money, but in an effort to save money, (we need to look at whether) there is a potential education benefit. Is there an impact to the families? All three of those were motivational conversations.”

He also said there’s no certainty of financial savings.

“If we’re talking $80,000, that means something. If we’re talking $10,000, that means something else,” Schmidt said. “We need to go back and do the numbers.”

He also said they need to figure out how families would be disrupted by a schedule change and what the benefits would be.

Rosenbaum acknowledged that there could be bumps in the road with a new schedule.

“This is a very tight schedule in the morning,” he said. “All things in the universe have to be in line to make this happen.”  

He also said that in the winter, students would be out in the dark, waiting for the buses in the morning. However, there are other disadvantages as well. Rosenbaum said that parents of elementary students would likely have more daycare costs. Pre-K would need to be “adjusted” again.

“The Diamond construction is going to have a big impact on whether we can get to White Rock on time,” Rosenbaum said. “We’ll do a route review this summer.”

Schmidt said the schedule would get the elementary “ahead of the lab,” meaning the students would be in school before Los Alamos National Laboratory’s 8 a.m. start time, while the middle school and high school would start school after the lab starts its workday.

“There’s a curiosity in this schedule,” Schmidt said.