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City still seeking a plan for later start at Northampton High School



Wednesday, March 19, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Though city schools have been directed to launch a later start time for Northampton High School this fall, school officials have yet to figure out how.

After reviewing a consultant’s report for a “hub” busing plan that would allow the high school to move its start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. in September, members of the School Committee’s Budget and Property Subcommittee unanimously recommended against the plan.

“There is not sufficient money in this year’s budget” to absorb the additional costs of the hub plan, Downey Meyer, who is chairman of the subcommittee, told fellow board members last week.

Last year, the School Committee approved moving the school bell at NHS to between 8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. by September, based on research showing teens who get more sleep do better in school.

As for what the rejection of the hub idea means for that directive, “The short answer is, we don’t have a plan,” Meyer said in an interview after last week’s school board meeting.

Under the hub system, NHS students would share buses with elementary school students in the mornings and with JFK Middle School students in the afternoons. The plan would cost between $228,175 and $84,069 in additional busing expenses, according to the report by Tyler Technologies, a New York school transportation software company.

The hub plan would also change start times at all four city elementary schools and JFK.

“The hub system has elementary and high school students on the same bus,” said noted School Committee member Lisa Minnick. “There are some people who will say that’s good and others who will not think so.”

Committee member Howard Moore, who had proposed the hub plan, said the consultant’s report reveals “inefficiencies” in the system that need to be addressed, regardless of what happens with a later high school start.

“There are a lot of empty seats compared to what we are paying” for busing, Moore said at last week’s board meeting. “The current system has a lot of flaws.”

In response, board members voted to authorize a count of daily ridership on city school buses.

In January, the school board approved spending up to $10,500 for an analysis of the hub plan by Tyler Technologies.