Parents upset as Wake Schools proposes bell changes

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A bus driver shortage could affect school bell times.

Editor's note: Apex Middle is NOT one of the schools with a proposed change, as referenced in the video. It should be Apex Elementary instead.

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It's 1:50 p.m. and North Raleigh dad Jeremy Grubb is waiting in a line spanning a quarter-mile waiting to pick up three of his children from school.

If Wake County Public Schools changes the bell schedule to his children's elementary school, North Forest Pines, the queue of parents waiting to pick up their children will be much longer.

"Things have worked out well," Grubb said. "So I'm not sure why they would propose a solution when there doesn't appear to be a problem to solve."

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Changes to North Forest Pines, Apex, and Heritage elementary schools, Apex High School, and Wake Forest Middle school are proposed. Changes could affect the start and end of school by as little as 10 minutes and in North Forest Pines' case -- 90 minutes.



Grubb said he feels the school board went about the changes in the wrong way.

"In some ways they're proposing a solution and creating a problem versus identifying a problem and creating a solution," Grubb told ABC11. "In some ways I think it's in reverse."

Wednesday, an official with Wake County Schools told ABC11 the proposed changes will create more efficiency with school buses and students will still get to class on time. The official also acknowledged parents and students would feel the shift to their daily routine.

School officials also say the changes are due in large part because Wake County is growing and more schools are opening.

In fact, Apex High School will begin start school at 7:10 a.m. and end at 2:03. The start of the school day will be 15 minutes earlier to allow Cary students at the new Green Level High School more time to get to school. This will take place while Apex HS has their campus renovated during the next two years.

I guess that's a step in the right direction," Grubb said. "But overall if you look at it collectively, this is going to be a challenge for a lot of parents."



Grubb is concerned about North Forest Pines parents who will be impacted by a 9:15 start who have a long commute to work.

"If you live here, you know what Capital is like to get downtown in the morning, I mean it's a bear," Grubb said. "So how do you tell your employer that you're going to be arriving an hour later? Or how are you going to manage getting your kids here if you're trying to carpool with other families? I don't know."

According to the News & Observer, Wake County Public Schools will offer a $750 retention bonus this year and increase the starting pay to $15/hour beginning this fall, up from $12.55 an hour.

In related news, Durham Public Schools is also dealing with a school bus driver shortage. School officials asked for an additional $19 million in statewide funding to pay school bus drivers an additional $2/hour.

BUS DRIVER SHORTAGE IN DURHAM, TOO

For Durham schools that would mean entry level drivers would earn $16.04 an hour, up from $14.04.

The other challenge is hiring drivers who don't have a Commercial Driver's License (CDL). That process generally takes 3 months and once drivers obtain a CDL and start transporting kids, it's another 3-4 weeks before their first paycheck.

North Forest Pines parent Sarah Arkey, also opposed to shifting bell schedules, told ABC11, "The school year is August, September sometime. They have time. Get the ball rolling. I'm sure it would be appeasing to someone who is unemployed."

Board members for Wake County Public Schools will consider parental feedback on the changes and vote on the matter during their March 21 meeting.

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