Brunswick Co Board of Ed. votes for traditional school schedule - WECT, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Bus drivers to lose jobs after school schedule change

The traditional schedule means all students will start and end their school day at the same time. The traditional schedule means all students will start and end their school day at the same time.

For the fourth time, the Brunswick County School System will change its school schedule.

The Brunswick County Board of Education voted 3-2 Wednesday night to go back to the traditional schedule next year, not the staggered start.

The traditional schedule means all students will start and end their school day at the same time. The decision is estimated to cost the school system about $1 million according to the Chairman of the Board, John Thompson.

It will also cost some full-time employees their jobs, mainly the 67 schools bus drivers in the county. They will be given the option to sign on as part-timers, but if they don't, the county will be paying for the workers' unemployment and health benefits.

Thompson also said the school system will have to purchase new buses, reinstate old busses, and increase maintenance costs. This comes on the heels of state law makers discussing transportation budgets cuts and teacher pay raises during the General Assembly.

It's these costs that some officials say don't add up to the "small" sacrifice deemed necessary during the staggered schedule.

"I would think almost everyone would think that it would be preferable to keep as much money as possible in the classroom, keep our teachers assistants, keep our full time people in place and make a few sacrifices," Thompson said.

The vote came as a surprise to many including school teachers and principals in attendance. Many expected the board to choose a staggered schedule, proposed by Superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden. The idea would have had elementary school students arrive at school first, followed by middle and high school students.

Vicki Smith, Principal at Union Elementary School said she was shocked and disappointed by the decision. She's concerned about how the move could affect teachers and students in the area.

"I know all the elementary school principals are disappointed because we know that in the end, you have to have money to have teachers in the classroom," said Smith. "If that million dollars isn't there then where are we going to get the money to get teachers."

Some parents share the same opinion.

"The school system is in so much need of so many things in money and in staff," Kelly Boody, a parent at Belville Elementary, said. "To dedicate that much in funds to transportation is really frustrating to me. I feel like we could be using that money in so many better ways and in so many in supporting teachers and updating facilities."

But many people are just as frustrated with the change because of the lack of consistency. 

"If it had stayed the first staggered year, I think everyone would have been alright and just keep going in that same way. But then we went back traditional, after that then we went back to staggered again, and now we're going back to traditional," Boody said. "I think we need to leave well enough alone...where we're saving money."

School leaders have not yet determined the exact start and end times for the new schedule or the system's plans to absorb the additional program costs.

Thompson said he thinks the decision to go back to a tradition start time was made because of concerns from parents about the length of time their elementary aged kids had to stay at school.

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