By Jessica Groover
The Cabarrus County Board of Education reviewed a three-tier busing plan Monday night that, if approved, could save more than $500,000 in capital outlay but would change school opening and closing times for the 2009-10 school year.
Jim Amendum, the associate superintendent for the school system, said the plan originates from a priority over the last three years to replace all teacher assistants who drive buses with full-time drivers. This move would allow for teacher assistants to be in the classrooms more and for bus drivers to be eligible for benefits.
Currently, there are 60 regular teacher assistants who drive buses and 110 substitute drivers.
As a part of the plan, school times would be affected to make bus routes triple-tiered and more efficient. If approved, high schools and four elementary schools would start at 7:15 or 7:30 a.m. and end at 2:15 p.m. Amendum did not specify which four elementary schools would have this schedule.
Middle schools would begin at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m., and most elementary schools would commence at 9:15 a.m. and end at 4 p.m.
The plan would also add 30 minutes to the elementary school day, which Amendum said principals had requested.
Under this plan, school officials anticipate saving $4 million in costs, because as many as 50 buses will not be driven until they are needed to replace older ones. The school system would then use a portion of that amount to purchase cameras for school buses as a way to make the ride safer. Even with the purchase of the cameras, the savings left would be at least $500,000 if the plan is approved.
In an e-mail survey of all principals, most were in favor of changing to the three-tier system, according to Amendum.
Several board members complimented the plan.
“We will be able to get more academic time in the classrooms because teacher assistants will be there all day, and elementary schools will have more time,” said Wayne Williams, board vice chair.
Board members Andrea Palo and Carolyn Carpenter and board chair Holly Blackwelder also complimented the plan.
“This will hit three areas, staff, safety and transportation,” Blackwelder said prior to the meeting. “To have one plan affect three areas of the school system, that’s excellent.”
At the meeting, Blackwelder asked that before voting, the board hear feedback from the parent council, which meets with superintendent Barry Shepherd.
The board agreed to vote on this plan at the April 23 work session, which will be at Concord High School.
• Contact reporter Jessica Groover: 704-789-9152.