Monday, May 01, 2000

Fairfield HS reconsiders class times

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — Adjusting the starting time for Fairfield Senior High School is possible, but it could be costly, and might have an impact on drivers' commutes.

        For several months, John Pennell, administrative assistant for business, and a committee has studied whether it would be feasible to start classes later. Several studies have shown teens benefit academically from school days that begin later.

        Fairfield starts classes at 7 a.m., earlier than 21 other high schools in Butler and Hamilton counties, said Mr. Pennell. With the exception of Finneytown High School, which starts at 8:05 a.m., most of the schools surveyed begin between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m., Mr. Pennell said.

        “This is a very complex issue,” Superintendent Charles Wiedenmann told the school board last week. “We have 11,000 kids (public and private) going to 30 schools ... You can fix anything if you throw enough money at it.”

        Mr. Pennell's committee came up with five options, which the board of education will discuss May 4.

        A change could not be im plemented until the 2001-02 school year because of the time required for ordering new buses, hiring drivers and redrawing bus routes, depending on what is done, Mr. Wiedenmann said. Two options would require the purchase of about 25 buses and the hiring of about 30 drivers.

        Dropping high school transportation is another option to be discussed.

        Cost estimates for the projects will be prepared for next week's discussion. Typically, new buses cost $45,000 to $55,000 each. The cost of employing each new driver would be $17,000, including benefits, school officials said.

        Mr. Pennell said probably the least costly and easiest option would be to simply set a later starting time for all Fairfield Schools. “The biggest drawback is you're going to put traffic on the road when everybody's trying to enter and leave Fairfield,” Mr. Pennell said. “The city likes the starting and ending times (now) because we're out before a majority of the residents are out. Backing up even 15-20 minutes causes real (traffic) concerns especially the bottleneck at (Ohio) Route 4 and Gilmore.”


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