St. Paul Public Schools is changing start times at several schools and renewing its partnership with Metro Transit in anticipation of a continued bus driver shortage next school year.
Like this year, students at seven high schools will get Metro Transit bus cards instead of yellow bus service next fall. LEAP High School students are also losing school bus service, the district Wednesday announced.
Among high schools, only Highland Park, Humboldt and Open World Learning will offer school bus service in the fall because of limited access to Metro Transit routes.
Meanwhile, all middle and high schools will start at 8:30 each morning as high schools switch to block schedules, with four classes one day and a different four classes the next. That means a later start for the grades 6-12 Washington Technology Magnet and earlier starts for Battle Creek and Murray middle schools, as well as the pre-K-8 Hazel Park Prep.
Also, eight elementary schools will have their start times adjusted by two hours in order to give families in each neighborhood the choice between a 7:30 and 9:30 start. Some parts of the city would otherwise lose that choice with five schools closing next fall due to low enrollment.
- Moving to 7:30 starts are Bruce Vento, Highland Park, Randolph Heights and Wellstone.
- Moving to 9:30 are Hamline, Jie Ming Mandarin Immersion, L’Etoile du Nord French Immersion and Phalen Lake Hmong Studies.
“These changes are challenging but necessary to ensure students can get to and from school safely and on time,” the district said.
Days before the school year began in September, the district start adjusted times at several schools and made the move to Metro Transit for most high schoolers after learning contractor buss had far fewer drivers than they needed.
The number of district routes was cut to 196 from around 300. Still, that wasn’t enough when coronavirus cases and driver absences surged in early January, forcing 1,000 students to find their own way to school.
Next year, the district plans to have 190 routes, spokesman Kevin Burns said.
Metro Transit said Wednesday that the school district bought 6,103 bus cards for students this school year and they’ve been used for 224,820 rides — about 37 rides per card. Those numbers cover district high schools that had been taking Metro Transit buses for years, as well as schools added in the fall because of the driver shortage.