The Beaufort County School District is looking at ways to maximize efficiency when it comes to using its school bus fleet, and to help more high school students earn college credits in the process.
It all depends on what time classes start for Beaufort County students because that time affects what time the school buses need to pick up the children.
With a limited number of buses, school officials say it's difficult to get students who don't have transportation, to take advantage of credits being offered by Beaufort County Community College.
Classes at the college begin at 8 o'clock in the morning. Right now, Southside Principal Dale Cole says their bell rings at 8:33.
Cole says, "Our students that ride buses that aren't car riders or don't ride with someone else, they don't have access to those classes first period."
Cole would like their start time to be earlier so more students can take advantage of the college credit program, but knows it would affect more than just the high school.
Cole says moving up start times is going to affect pick up times, not just for our high school students, but also for our elementary school students.
Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps says, "It really is like a jigsaw puzzle and when you make one change it sometimes has a ripple affect throughout the system."
Part of what makes finding a solution so difficult has to do with how big the county is. Right now they have 102 school buses that have to account for about 800 square miles.
Phipps says, "The amount of area that we have to cover, the fact that we're bisected by a river, makes it very difficult to get students from one place to another."
In an effort to allow all students to participate, the district looked at a proposal that would have added 8 buses to their fleet, but Phipps says with more buses on the road, their efficiency rating would drop - resulting in less transportation funding from the state.
Phipps says, "No matter what choice we make there's a cost that will cost some and a benefit to others and we have to do the best to balance that."
The superintendent and the board are aware that moving start times around will affect other issues, like child care, after school and work schedules.
He also said they do expect to implement more sharing of buses this year.
The board plans to spend the upcoming school year getting feedback from students, parents, and business owners --- who would all be affected by a potential change.
Phipps expects those discussions to begin in October.
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