INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- Indianapolis Public Schools will host a series of community meetings starting Monday to address concerns about the district’s new transportation model. The change comes as students start the new "All-Choice" high school model in the fall.
IPS announced plans to close three of their high schools, leaving four high schools total for the new model. Students can pick a school, based on an education specialty, no matter where it’s located. That means bus routes are going to change for many students, possibly becoming a much longer commute for some. Officials say the location of the bus stops may also change.
"We’re looking to expand the home to bus stop distance," said Manny Mendez, IPS Transportation Director.
"We’re hoping that will help us consolidate some bus stops. You look at the time it takes to pull over the bus, get the kids on, move on -- if I can consolidate that, those are hard minutes that are taken away from that ride and it gets the kids to school in a more efficient manner," Mendez said.
Besides the building and bus stop locations, officials are discussing another potential change and hot topic: School start times. District leaders say high school students may start at a later time in the morning.
"It's from CDC studies, adolescents learn better with a later start time and the younger guys are better performers in the morning, so there's a lot of science behind that. I'm the guy behind the scenes to get them there," Mendez said.
Some parents say they’re worried about the ripple effect that change could have on schedules.
"They’re wanting these students to be more alert and want them to get their sleep, but I feel like that starts at home," said Romona Spells, a parent of two IPS high school students.
"I understand the concept of it, but my concerns are, if [high school students] are going later and then they’re going to switch out with the younger kids going earlier -- what about programs in the evening, what about their sleep as well, for parents who have teenagers and younger kids? Let’s put all these factors together and see what’s going to work out best for the home as well as the student's life," Spells said.
Spells also says she has concerns about students being at bus stops, which may end up being farther away, when adults aren't around due to the time change.
Some elementary-aged kids on certain routes would be required to be at the bus stop by 6 a.m., when it is still dark out.
"There's weather, predators -- can these kids get back to their house safely? Because some of these bus stops are three or four blocks away from their home. That’s what my concerns are with this timing," Spells said.
For parents like Denella Stinson, the current elementary school schedule allows her to be there for her kids after school. Most elementary schools in the district start between 9:15 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
"I get off at 2:50 [from work]," Stinson said. "They get home at 4:20. So right now, I'm able to be home and not rely on after school childcare services - having to pay for any of that."
The proposed shift would move the elementary start time to 7:40 a.m. and kids would get home earlier.
"Some families don't have the option of after school care and what if those children are going to be home alone during that time?" Stinson said.
Mendez said the district has been communicating with its after school care partners and they say they are supportive of any possible change.
The public is invited to be part of the conversation at the following meetings:
- Monday, Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. – New Wineskin Ministries – 4501 38th
- Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. – St. Paul’s Episcopal Church – 6050 N. Meridian St.
- Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. – Community Alliance Far Eastside – 8902 E. 38th
- Thursday, March 1 at 6 p.m. – Julia Carson Government Center – 300 E. Fall Creek Pkwy N. Dr.
Officials say they’ll listen to all community input, then share that information with the school board. From there, the board will decide what changes will go into effect for the 2018 - 2019 school year.