EAST ROCKHILL — The Pennridge School District Adolescent Sleep and School Start Time Committee isn't dozing while it studies possible changes to the starting time at the high school.
"We have done a lot of homework in the committee and we're getting to the nitty gritty and one of the biggest pieces to a study of this context is the transportation because transportation's the key to making sure that we are able to do anything if we are going to move forward with changes to school start times," Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Schools Anthony Rybarczyk said at the Feb. 8 Pennridge School Board Finance Committee meeting.
The move is being eyed as a way to help students get more and better sleep to better prepare them for the school day. Classes at the high school now start at 7:15 a.m. The three options being looked into are starting high school at 7:45 a.m., starting high school at 8 a.m., or starting high school at 8 a.m. and middle schools at 7:45 a.m.
The committee received proposals from two transportation consulting companies and is recommending that VersaTrans be hired to do the transportation study, Rybarczyk said.
Pennridge's current bus routing system is also through VersaTrans, he said.
"They're going to use our district routing system and they will manipulate the actual routes within the system," he said. "It's called a ghost account. They will go into and actually fix the routes to make it so it fits each of the scenarios."
The study will look at the financial impact, the effects on sports team practices and competitions, and what the impact would be on community groups using district facilities, he said. Although included in the study, the impact on community groups will be very little because community group usage of district facilities happens after school hours, he said.
In answer to a question from committee Chair Megan Banis Clemens, Rybarczyk said the study will help improve district busing for all grade levels.
"No matter what, we're looking to get efficiencies out of it," he said. "Whether we change the start times or not, the whole point of the study is that you can find efficiencies within your normal routing system as it stands currently."
The district will have access to the ghost account and be able to use it in the future, he said.
The transportation study will take four to six weeks, VersaTrans said in its proposal. The estimated cost is $11,200 for 64 hours of work at $175 per hour. The district will be charged for the actual consultant time used and will be notified in writing in advance if the cost is more than $11,200, the VersaTrans proposal said.