The first of four transportation meetings designed to gather input from the community on a new transportation plan started with a packed house on Monday night at New Wineskin Ministries on the city’s west side. The district is exploring a new transportation model because it’s moving to an All-Choice High School Model in the 2018-19 school year. That means students have chosen their high school based on the college and career options offered and not by location.

In addition to developing the most efficient way to transport students across the city, the IPS Board of School Commissioners has also asked the district to explore a later start time for high school students. Research shows that middle school and high school students who start school at 8:30 a.m. or later arrive at school more awake and ready to learn. Additionally, medical research shows that sleep patterns of younger children allowed them to get up and get into learning mode much earlier than teens.

The proposal includes three options for school start times:

  • Option One:
  • High Schools, Middle Schools, Innovation Schools: Start 7:30 a.m. and End 2:30 p.m.
  • Elementary Schools: Start 9:55 a.m. and End –4:30 p.m.
  • Option Two:
  • High Schools, Middle Schools, Innovation Schools: Start 9:55 a.m. and End 4:55 p.m.
  • Elementary Schools: Start 8:05 a.m. and End 2:40 p.m.
  • Option Three:
  • High Schools, Middle Schools, Innovation Schools: Start 8 a.m. and End 3 p.m.
  • Elementary Schools: Start 10:25 a.m. and End 5 p.m.

After a brief presentation of the proposal from Transportation Director Manny Mendez, community members broke up into small groups to discuss key talking points and gather feedback to share with the larger group.

Reaction to changing start times from the parents and teachers in attendance was mixed. Some parents rely on their high school students who currently start school earlier and get home first to get their younger siblings off the bus and provide child care until their parents get home from work. The possibility of the younger children starting school earlier and getting home first created some concern that some families may not be able to afford to pay for after-school care. Others expressed safety concerns about elementary students starting so early that during certain times of the year they may be waiting at the bus stop in the dark.

“Depending on the time of the year now, we have some younger students who wait in the dark at the current start time. It hasn’t been a concern,” said Mendez.

“We recognize some of these options may present challenges for some of our families. That’s why we’re holding these meetings,” said Superintendent Dr. Lewis D. Ferebee. “We want to hear from you before we make any decisions.”

Moving high school to a later start time also raised questions about after-school activities, practices and games.

On the bright side, many parents were in favor of some of the options to increase travel-time efficiency. The proposal includes reducing the number of bus stops by increasing the home-to-bus stop walking distance from four blocks to seven blocks.

“We think high school students would be okay to walk a few extra blocks,” said one parent.

By decreasing stops, the district could reduce the amount of time students spend on the bus.

The discussions will continue with the three remaining Transportation Community Input Meetings:

Tonight – 6 p.m.:St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 6050 N. Meridian St.

Wednesday – 6 p.m.: CAFE Neighborhood Center, 8902 E. 38th St.

Thursday – 6 p.m.: Julia Carson Government Center, 300 E. Fall Creek Parkway N. Dr.