Bus schedule could leave children behind

When did the phrase "no child left behind" have anything to do with students getting on the bus?

The answer has to do with the State of Arizona's academic requirements for failing schools.

The Camp Verde School District is no different than most others. They don't have enough buses to transport every student within the district in one run.

To make things work, the district sends its buses out on the first run before 6 a.m. to pick up the elementary students and have them to the school between 7:20 and 7:45 a.m.

After they have delivered that group, the buses make a second run and pick up the middle school and high school students so they can arrive between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.

That is the way it has been done for as long as anyone can remember.

However, new mandates for school performance are now causing the district to rethink its bus schedule and the times for the first class bell in each of its three schools.

A year ago, Camp Verde Middle School did not meet mandated academic requirements and was declared a failing school. In order to bring its grade up, the school has been working diligently over the last school year to bringing students with poor grades together with tutors.

The school now offers tutoring before school and during lunch.

The problem is that it is difficult for the middle school students, who don't drive and whose parents have jobs, to make it to school for the early tutoring session. The result has been an empty morning tutoring session and an overcrowded lunch session.

The solution, as proposed by the middle school's Site Advisory Counsel, a group of parents and teachers, is to move tutoring to the end of the school day.

"It has proven difficult to get the students here for the morning tutoring," Middle School Counselor Daria Weir said. "It is considerably easier to keep them here an extra period at the end of the day."

"Not to mention that kids learn better in the morning, so getting them here earlier would also give us more time with them during their most productive learning time," Weir said, "and afternoon extracurricular activities would have less of an impact on their academics."

Some days, the demand for lunchtime tutoring exceeds 80 students. There are only three tutors and they are donating their time as volunteers sent by the Yavapai-Apache Nation's Boys and Girls Clubs.

"We absolutely love what the volunteers from the club are doing for us," Weir said, "but even they have their limitations."

This is how a bus schedule can work for or against a school's academic rating.

Any solution leaves the district with a logistical problem, not to mention an elementary and a high school that are accustomed to doing things a certain way.

The site advisory councils from the elementary school and the high school have expressed reluctance to make any changes.

And according to the district, the only way to make the transportation situation work is to group the middle school students with the high school students.

"There is not enough room in the buses to transport the elementary school and middle school students together -- safely," the district's Transportation Director Stacey Barker said.

"We can make anything work as long as I can put the middle school students and the high school students together and they give me an hour between start times."

The school board discussed the issue at its May meeting last Tuesday. They have directed District Superintendent Ron Maughan to form a committee and bring the results back to the board.

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