Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) will save more than $600,000 for the 2012-2013 school year with bell-schedule changes at 10 schools, according to district officials.

By using a tiered method of scheduling and routing buses, the district will be able to provide the same level of transportation services with 15 fewer buses, said Carol Stamper, CMS executive director of transportation. “The greatest savings will come from needing fewer bus drivers,” she said. “The next largest savings is fuel costs.”
Parents already made their opinions known at a school board meeting last week. They say the new start and stop times cut into family time for homework, tutoring and other activities. Interim Superintendent Hugh Hattabaugh said he won’t change the new times because the schedule creates a problem for after-school activities.
Hattabaugh said he doesn’t plan to start high schools later than 7:15 am or cut the elementary school day  from seven to six hours and 15 minutes, as some had requested. Mint Hill Middle School will start an hour earlier next fall with the new hours.
The school board doesn’t set the hours but Hattabaugh said they could decide to budget for the extra busing and end the unpopular hours he’s set. There are plans to request more money for CMS schools but Hattabaugh said that money would be used to give employee raises and other programs.
CMS made significant reductions in its transportation costs in recent years by rearranging bus schedules and school start times. The school system has been able to save more than $15 million in transportation costs over four years. The district has also earned an efficiency rating of 95.52 percent from the state.
The bell-schedule adjustments follow a district decision to add 45 minutes to the elementary instructional day last year. Although that decision was made for academic reasons, it has allowed for greater efficiency in transportation schedules, too.
“These savings have allowed us to use that money to help cover the costs of teachers, instructional programs and other academic resources,” said Hattabaugh. “We recognize that there are non-financial costs that affect our families, who have had to be flexible in family scheduling,  and we appreciate our families’ willingness to work with us to strengthen our academic achievement and our budget.”
Mint Hill Middle will start at 8:15 instead of 9:15 and end at 3:15. Other schools will stay the same with high school schedules beginning at 7:15 am, ending at 2:15 pm. Elementary schools begin at 8:15 and end at 3:15 pm.