SPARTA, NJ – During the Superintendent’s report at the board of education meeting last week, Dennis Tobin discussed correspondence he had received from members of the community. “There have been a number of emails from parents asking us to change the start times of school and look at the length of bus routes,” he said.
These related issues have been discussed at previous meetings. Tobin said a survey was done of all of the bus routes and it was found that the longest route was approximately 45 minutes.
In addressing the start time issue Tobin reiterated a large consideration is that high school students must be released in time to participate in after school activities including athletics, academic clubs and the arts including theater and band. Students also work after school and are responsible for caring for younger children until parents are home from work.
Competitions, whether athletic, academic or artistic, require Sparta High School to be on a similar schedule as other school districts.
A later start time would likely mean a later release time.
“We would only want to move the [high school] start time back by about 15 to 20 minutes. We would only do it as long as it did not impact the elementary schools’ dismissal time. Right now our latest school gets out at 3:45,” said Tobin.
To keep costs down, Sparta uses a tiered busing system; a single bus is responsible for drop off and pick up from several different schools. That tiered system requires staggered start times sufficient to allow for buses to complete one route and get to the next. For example, one bus that drives for the high school might also drive a route for Helen Morgan school and then for Alpine school.
Sparta school district is also responsible for providing busing to students in Sparta who attend the private schools as well. Those buses have to be factored into the tiered system and the budget.
Shortening bus ride times would likely mean additional routes would have to be added. “We will look at this as a part of the budget process,” said Tobin.