Staggered hours, combining ages considered for school bus challenges

Published: May. 15, 2012 at 9:57 PM HST|Updated: May. 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Education has hit a fork in the road when it comes to school bus service.  The Department is grappling with options to fill a $16 million shortfall on school bus service and is considering some drastic measures.  The options include cutting routes, raising fares, and combining all ages so kindergartners ride on the same bus with high school students.  But the biggest savings would come from staggering start and end times.  Of course that could also deliver the most complaints.

"Parents are into a routine of I drop my kid off x time, you mean the school is going to start earlier I have to get up earlier, or the school is going to start later, they're going to be hanging around the house how do I know they are going to get to school. All of these issues are soluble. I suspect six months after we implement it no one will complain. But change is hard," said Randy Moore, Department of Education Assistant Superintendent.

As for combining all ages on buses, the department has already tried it and says it works although they acknowledge there will be bullying concerns.

"Well some people think that is bad but we do it in Hana everyday because we only have one K-12 school," said Moore "Different parents have different levels of comfort."

Some school Board of Education members questioned how the DOE with its $1.8 billion budget can't find $16 million to fill the gap.  Jim Williams already said he wouldn't vote for bus cuts for financial reasons.

"I think this is a classic case of the adults can't figure it out and therefore the students are going to suffer," said Jim Williams, Board of Education Member. "I'm sorry I don't accept. I would not vote for any route reduction that is cost driven. I don't think it's right."

"We should not look at any easy way out to terminate bus service particularly when bus service may be critical in getting kids to school and get the education we all believe they deserve," said Brian De Lima, Board of Education Member. "We need to be able reaffirm that we have looked at every single line item and considered its impact and importance."

"The challenge for the DOE is since 2008 we've had reduction, reduction, reduction, so the first year it's easy to find $16 million. Second year we found more so we've cut, cut, cut and now we're down to bare bones," said Moore.

"It will come down to a route by route evaluation, it can't be done by broad brush," said Kathryn Matayoshi, Department of Education Superintendent.

Administrators will meet with complex area superintendents next Wednesday to determine which routes to cut or keep.  Then the final recommendation to the Board will come June 5th.

In the meantime a notice will go home with students who ride the bus on the last day of school saying there's a money shortage and school bus changes are coming down the road.

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