The start of school may change next year at the two Watertown schools so that students do not have to endure long waits for the bus after school.
Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said the changes will be proposed as Watertown prepares to bid for a new school bus contract. To allow the buses to have more time, school officials have proposed starting school at Hosmer 10 minutes later, and start Watertown Middle School 10 minutes earlier.
The same buses that deliver students to and from Hosmer also serve Watertown Middle School. While the mornings have gone well, the afternoons have been regularly late picking up Hosmer students after the afternoon run at the middle school.
There are three buses serving both schools, and one bus has been at least five minutes late every day, and a second more than two-thirds of the time, including one day when it was more than 20 minutes late. The third bus was late nearly half the time.
“It’s not right for students and teacher to wait at the Hosmer for 20 minutes, sometimes longer,” Fitzgerald said.
Under the proposal, Hosmer would start at 8:30 a.m. rather than 8:20 a.m. and the middle school would start at 7:20 a.m. instead of 7:30 a.m.
Parent Kate Coyne asked if start time for older kids could be later and move the elementary schools earlier.
“Sleep studies show that with ‘tweens and teens it better to start later than sooner,” Coyne said.
Fitzgerald said that she agrees but does not think it will be possible right now.
Other options include adding another bus, but that would cost about $60,000.
“I’d rather have another teacher,” Fitzgerald said.
Or, the schools could stop providing bus service for the middle school, she said, because the state does not require districts to bus middle schoolers.
When bidding, School Committee member John Portz requested that the district see what the price would be for adding one bus in the afternoon, and if it would even be possible.
The efficiency of routes should also be examined, said School Committee member Michael Shepard. School Committee member Guido Guidotti said some stops might be able to be eliminated.
“When I am at the Lowell I see the middle school bus drop off kids at Victory Field,” he said. “That’s not that far to walk.”
Director of Business Services Charles Kellner said he hopes to bid the bus contract soon. The last time the district renewed its contract the bid did not go out until August. Only one company bid, Fitzgerald said.
School Committee members wanted to allow parents to have a say in the start time, but the next School Committee meeting is Monday. School Committee Chairman Eileen Hsu-Balzer said she would create an ad hoc committee to discuss school start times and buses. She will appoint the members at Monday’s meeting.