LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Jefferson County Public Schools is exploring the possibility of moving some of its alternative school students to a later bell schedule -- a plan officials say could potentially save the district $5 million and solve its bus driver shortage.

The district's operations division, transportation department and assistant superintendents have "investigated a change to the bell schedule at alternative schools for the 2016-17 year, according to the agenda for the June 28 school board meeting that was uploaded to the district's website Wednesday evening.

"This change will better meet the needs of at-risk students, include the required instructional time and enable a cost-effective transportation system," the agenda item reads.

It will be part of the Infrastructure Improvement Strategies and Transportation Update provided to the board during its 7 p.m. meeting.

Earlier in the week, JCPS spokeswoman Allison Martin told WDRB that details were still being worked out and "nothing (is) up for approval."

However, district officials have told WDRB that the proposal being considered would move students who attend Minor Daniels Academy, Breckinridge Metro High School and possibly the Phoenix School of Discovery to the same bell schedule as the district's preschool students -- 9:40 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The alternative schools currently operate on a 7:40 a.m. to 2:20 p.m. bell schedule, which is the same for the district's middle and high school students.

The bell schedule change would allow for fewer buses at the 7:40 a.m. time and allow for those routes to be run later in the morning. It could also potentially save the district millions of dollars by cutting out some of those bus routes altogether. 

As WDRB News has reported earlier this month, JCPS has been working to fill a large deficit within the district’s transportation department – they need to hire at least 75 bus drivers in order to ensure all of its 940 daily routes are filled by Aug. 10.

Officials with both the Teamsters Local 783, the union representing bus drivers, and the Jefferson County Teachers Association say that they have been approached about the idea of moving the bell schedule, but no firm details have been given to them.

"If the district decides to move forward with this, it would require a change in the contract and it would be subject to negotiation," said Brent McKim, president of JCTA. "This would be considered a working condition. It could cause some teachers to change their work schedules and incur expensive childcare expenses or impact a teacher's ability to work another job. If they are going to change the working conditions, they have to negotiate."

McKim added that the union is "open to discussing this option" with JCPS, but the negotiations must happen "sooner rather than later" if the district wants to change the bell schedule for 2016-17.

"If they try to implement it unilaterally, we would probably seek an injunction preventing them from doing so," he said. 

John Stovall, president of Teamsters Local 783, said he would also like information to share with the district's bus drivers.

"I'm sure some drivers would like to pick up a third route, but the problem is that we have not been told anything about this plan," Stovall said. 

Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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