Red Deer Public trying staggered start, finish times

In order to tackle a $1.2-million deficit, the Red Deer Public School District will stagger school start and finish times so it can use buses more efficiently.

In order to tackle a $1.2-million deficit, the Red Deer Public School District will stagger school start and finish times so it can use buses more efficiently.

Trustees approved a plan Wednesday to adopt double routing for school bus schedules by fall 2013.

This means that multiple buses will no longer take students to school simultaneously. Instead, school start and finish times will be staggered to allow one bus to drop off and pick up students from one school, and then head to a second.

The new scheduling is part of a strategy to reduce the deficit faced by the public district.

“We’re currently facing a transportation deficit in the neighbourhood of $250,000 annually,” Piet Langstraat, superintendent of schools, said Thursday.

“We believe we’ll be able to have substantial savings in busing costs,” he said.

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations, said that each bus will be running slightly longer to get two groups of students to school. However, Buruma said the additional cost of running one bus for longer is less than running two buses at the same time.

He also said there is provincial grant funding for some students who take the bus to school. The per bus funding would increase as a result of taking two full loads of students.

This means the new strategy would benefit both from reduced operating costs and increased revenues.

These changes will apply specifically to yellow school buses. Schools in Red Deer served by city buses will not be affected.

At this point, the specifics of the plan are not clear. Lawrence Lee, board chairman, said that the board approved the strategy in principle, so that work on planning can start.

It is not yet known which schools or routes might be affected, or how many students would face modified school and bus times.

The board predicted that there will be an adjustment period as students and parents get used to the new system.

However, Lee said the scheduling changes will be as minimally disruptive as possible.

Trustees also asked administration to consider regular one-way busing for kindergarten students. Currently, kindergarten students are taken only if there is leftover space on a bus.

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