Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) currently uses a three-tier bus system. Under a three-tier structure, one bus can run three different routes for three different school start times - 7:30 a.m., 8:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.
Because Minnesota is dealing with a bus driver shortage, three start times ensures we have enough bus drivers, reduces the number of buses needed for routes and reduces overall costs. One school bus typically costs $65,000 to operate for one school year. It’s important to note that transportation funding comes from the same money used for classrooms.
Reducing our three-tier busing structure is not feasible in our current school system. If SPPS only had two different start times, it would take 127 more school buses at a cost of $8.26 million. Additionally, having just one start time districtwide would mean 475 more school buses at a cost of $30.88 million. A three-tier structure takes into account the City of St. Paul’s large geographic area, student population, bus capacity and route times, and programming (magnet and community schools).
In considering a change to school start times, SPPS strives to:
- Keep student bus rides under 45 minutes.
- Provide high quality, on-time bus service.
- Limit the need to add more buses to minimize cost increases.
- Allow route flexibility for weather and after-school activities.
Metro Transit currently serves students at Gordon Parks High School, Johnson Senior and Creative Arts (9-12). Further, Johnson Senior changed its start time from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. in fall 2015, and Creative Arts (9-12) moved its start time to 8:30 a.m. in 2016.
Unfortunately, Metro Transit informed SPPS that it currently lacks the resources to expand its partnership. Instead, we must rely on achieving later start times for 9-12 students using school buses.
Even if Metro Transit took over transportation for traditional 9-12 high schools, SPPS would still need a three-tier bus system to accommodate all other secondary schools and sites.