The North Little Rock School Board has approved changes to the school district's daily start and end times to address school pickup concerns and to allow drivers time to sanitize buses.
Interim Superintendent Keith McGee and Micheal Stone, executive director of student and equity services, on Wednesday presented School Board members with recommendations regarding school starting and ending times along with the covid-19 procedures for uniforms and transportation.
The School Board unanimously approved the recommendations, which include time changes for all grade levels within the North Little Rock district.
The changes are:
• Elementary school will end five minutes earlier, beginning at 7:50 a.m. and ending at 2:35 p.m.
• Middle school will begin and end 10 minutes later, beginning at 8:10 a.m. and ending at 3:25 p.m.
• High school will begin 20 minutes later and end 15 minutes later, going from 8:40 a.m. until 3:55 p.m.
Stone said the time changes provide a gap between the dismissals of the elementary, middle and high schools, which will allow for the buses to be cleaned while still running on time.
Stone said school schedules will be adjusted because of the new bus times. Bus routes also will be adjusted, and students will be dropped off at school with enough time for them to eat breakfast before classes begin.
The proposal stated that the changes were necessary because 35 minutes wasn't enough time to drop off elementary students before and after school and still arrive at the middle school in a timely manner. It also states that bus drivers will need the time to properly sanitize buses before picking up the next group of students.
Buses will be sanitized daily, with drivers cleaning before and after each trip. An electrostatic cleaning solution and wipes will be used to sanitize the vehicles.
Stone said the district is also working on ways to socially distance on the buses. He said some of the buses aren't being used because some students are attending class virtually, which might allow the district to send two buses on one route.
"We want students to arrive 10 minutes prior to the stop times, and the bus will stay as a courtesy a minute after that," Stone said. "Students will not be allowed to ride other buses they are not assigned to."
Stone said student identification badges will be important, and he encouraged parents to make sure their children are wearing them when they are dropped off at the bus stop.
"If they don't have ID badges where we can see them, then we don't know if they belong on that bus," he said. "Sometimes in the past, we had individuals on the bus that didn't belong on the bus."
Seating charts also will be enforced on buses this year to accommodate social distancing as much as possible. Field trips and other activities will be limited because of the pandemic.
"Drivers and students are required to wear masks," Stone said. "We have hand sanitizer dispensers on the buses to allow kids to sanitize their hands."
Special-needs transportation also will be available this year. Covid-19 guidelines will be followed on those buses as well, Stone said.
School Board President Dorothy Williams said she understands parents might be frustrated with delays or changes, but she noted that everyone must show patience while changes are worked out.