In January, the school schedule at Philipsburg-Osceola can mean a pretty early start to the day.
The district’s elementary students start the day at 8:30 a.m. For secondary students, it’s 7:35 a.m. But that’s what time class starts. Take the bus and your day starts earlier. Live far enough out and it starts a lot earlier.
According to Director of Transportation Amanda Taylor, there are 222 square miles in the school district, meaning children in the farthest stops on a route spend about an hour on the bus before getting to school. There are 23 buses that operate 25 routes.
Last year, some school board members asked about changing that up to keep students from starting their days in the cold and dark on winter mornings.
“There’s a simple answer. Yes, it can be done,” Taylor said.
The thing is, it won’t change anything about the amount of time spent on the buses, and could change a dark, early start to the day to a dark, late end.
Moving the elementary student day could lead to buses dropping off the last student close to 5 p.m.
“My question back to you is what are we going to do?” asked Taylor.
The cost of changing the buses and school day would be about the same, she said. Superintendent Gregg Paladina said there could be other impacts.
The district’s day is long, about seven hours compared with others that clock about six hours of instructional time, but that little extra meant the district was able to count hours rather than days last winter and not have to make up as many snow days as other districts.
“It’s a day, but we get the benefit,” Paladina said.
Board member Nancy Lamb said the schedule and its early start are something new, only about three years old, right before Paladina took the reins of the district.
“I don’t see the advantage to it,” she said.
She also questioned whether the schedule was actually improving the actual amount of instruction.
One stated reason for the early day at the secondary level is that it cuts down on loss of class time for athletes that might have to travel for competitions. Lamb suggested students might not miss time on the day of a match but might miss the next day if a long night at an event makes it hard to be at a bus stop at 6:30 a.m.
Administrators denied that.
“No one is missing because of the schedule,” said high school Assistant Principal David Simcox.
No decisions were made at a recent committee meeting, but Paladina and Taylor said they would bring more information back to the board soon.