Originally Published: August 14, 2013 6:01 a.m.
PRESCOTT VALLEY - How long is too long?
That's what one Humboldt Unified School District (HUSD) parent is asking after learning her 12-year-old son would sit an extra 45 minutes on the school bus this year.
Stoneridge resident Amber Schaffer said she's worried about students sitting too long on the bus prior to arriving at Bradshaw Mountain Middle School.
Her son's bus schedule previously started at 6:36 a.m. in order to be at school by 7:15, she said. New changes to the schedule, however, require that he gets to the bus stop 45 minutes earlier.
"The first scheduled stop is at 5:38 a.m., so that child is on the bus from 5:38 a.m. to the drop-off at 7:15 a.m.," Schaffer said. "We live in the town limits. It's not like we're a rural area. Prescott Valley is very compact. It's not really spread out. I don't understand why that child needs to be on the bus for an hour and 40 minutes."
She said a 6:36 a.m. start time has always been the case for her family until this year. "That was typical. All three of my kids have gone to Bradshaw Mountain Middle School, so that schedule was pretty standard," Schaffer said. "But then we got a notice from my son's school to check bus schedules because times may have changed. I went online to look and found the bus schedules changed on Friday. We weren't notified until after district hours."
Schaffer said she visited HUSD's offices on Aug. 5 to ask about the changes. "My son's bus has 47 stops. I'm not complaining just for my own son, but for all these kids. Does their cost savings outweigh making kids do that?" Schaffer said.
She said she is hesitant to put her son on the bus with the new schedule. She drove him to school on Aug. 5 rather than place him on a long bus ride for his first day back to school.
"For most parents that's not a viable option. In this area, a lot of parents are at work by 6 a.m. That timeframe just seems really outrageous," she said.
Humboldt Unified School District director of human resources Dan Streeter said bus routes were consolidated over the summer to conserve fuel costs and improve bus occupancy rates. He said that, while bus schedules have changed, the process is still changing. "The goal of this was to have as little impact on drop-offs and pickup times as possible and within reason," Streeter said. "We have some routes that go out toward the far reaches of our district boundaries."
This week, some of those routes are being altered to shorten the time students spend on the bus. He said work is underway to split some routes to reduce the amount of time the students are spending on the bus to less than an hour. The reduction is expected to take effect by the end of the week.
The district likes to have three days to communicate to parents any schedule changes, and the new route most likely will begin Monday.
The first week of school typically means longer drop-off times in the afternoon, he added.
"Students are figuring out what bus they're riding after school," Streeter said. "Because our buses will run combo routes - in many cases they'll have middle school and high school students on them - if we're taking an extra 10 minutes at each campus to make sure students know where they're supposed to be, right out of the gate that's an extra 10 minutes behind schedule. These first few days will typically throw things out of whack. After that we'll have a real good idea of what the impact is on these consolidated routes and what adjustments we'll need to make."
Prescott Valley Tribune reporter Sue Tone contributed to this story.