WILLIAMSBURG-JAMES CITY COUNTY — To address the need for more planning time for staff and more efficient transportation services for students, Williamsburg-James City County (WJCC) schools will implement earlier start and end times for the 2022-23 school year.
During its Tuesday, May 3 work session, the Williamsburg-James City County (WJCC) School Board heard an update on transportation services.
According to WJCC, afternoon on-time rates at elementary and middle schools this year have ranged from 57% to 83%.
In July 2021, the School Board approved a $1.1 million transportation contract with an outside company for select students to address the division’s bus driver shortage.
This allowed the division to use the WJCC bus drivers that were assigned to out-of-zone routes to be used for kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) zoned routes.
Marcellus Snipes, the division’s senior director for operations, said that WJCC currently has 28 bus driver vacancies. The administration is requesting to contract transportation services for select students for the 2022-23 school year.
Snipes said that without contract support, the division would be unable to provide efficient and timely transportation to all WJCC schools.
The recommended solution to contract out transportation routes followed numerous studies from the Transportation Department andTransfinder, the division’s routing vendor.
Daniel Keever, the division’s chief financial officer, said that there are currently 57 students being served through the contracted service.
Based on the Transfinder review, the division will be about 25 bus drivers short for the next school year despite their efforts to hire and bring on additional drivers this past year.
Keever said that utilizing additional services will allow the division to regain between 10 and 11 drivers.
To incorporate more collaboration and planning time in the calendar for staff, student start and end times will shift for the 2022-23 school year.
Middle and high school students’ instructional days will be shortened.
WJCC high school hours will start at 7:20 a.m. and end at 2 p.m. Middle schools will start at 8:05 a.m. and end at 2:45 p.m. Tier 3 elementary schools, which are James River Elementary School and Stonehouse Elementary School, will start at 8:55 a.m. and end at 3:25 p.m. Tier 4 elementary schools, which are Clara Byrd Baker, DJ Montague, J. Blaine Blayton, Laurel Lane, Matoaka, Matthew Whaley, and Norge Elementary Schools will start at 9:35 a.m. and end at 4:05 p.m.
The change in instructional hours is meant to address both the need for more collaboration and planning time for staff and to provide more efficient transportation services.
WJCC said that the lengths of the instructional day are still well within the requirements of the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE).
The Board also discussed the idea of adding specific non-transportation zones that are close and in safe proximity to the school to be considered at the secondary level beginning in 2022-23, and at the elementary level in 2023-24.
The Board also heard a recommendation for a potential tiered scheduling model for schools in the 2023-24 school year that would see elementary schools have an earlier start time, and secondary schools (middle school and high school) follow in the later tier times.
Several Board members noted that there would be middle school and high school parents who would appreciate the shift.
“I would recommend that we look at that in earnest for the 2023-24 school year to best prepare ourselves for the community to feel like they are engaged in that process because every single facet of the community will be impacted,” Keever said.
“With our current staffing scenario, we would probably have a far easier time of getting close to a 90% delivery rate across all of the tiers if we change the order,” he added.
The Board will review the information to prepare to vote on the transportation contract at its next regular meeting, which will take place on Tuesday, May 17 at 6:30 p.m. in the James Blair Middle School Gymnasium, 101 Longhill Road.