Crawleigh could affect school start times next year


Wake County school leaders now say the roadwork on the Raleigh beltline will have a major impact on school bus routes. So, they are considering a change in school start times.

The school system has hundreds of buses, and thousands of children that now have to navigate the traffic nightmare.

Tuesday, school board members heard from district transportation leaders about the impact of Crawleigh on school bus routes.

Crawleigh is the three year long, 11-and-a-half mile long road repair project along Raleigh's southern beltline.

Drivers started feeling the first effects this week with daytime road closures along Interstate 440 westbound. The school system says school buses will start feeling the impact when phase two of the project begins next year.

Phase two lane closures are predicted to impact 223 Wake County school bus routes -- that's 20 percent of all Wake County buses. Officials expect the impact will last until 2016.

"Our buses do carry multiple students," said Wake County School Board Chairwoman Christine Kushner. "So we're getting cars off the road by having efficient bus transportation for our students, but I also want us to stay focused on attendance issues and tardiness issues. Those impact student achievement. They impact instruction."

The state's transportation chief is well aware of how delicate an issue this is with parents and students.

Tony Tata is the former Wake County school superintendent and now the secretary of transportation.

Tata told ABC11 that his department has been working with Wake Schools staff since September of last year discussing the timeline and impact of Crawleigh on the school system.

"It's a very sensitive issue and we're goubg to do everything we can to maintain open lines of communication," said Tata, "and the staffs have been working very well together."

In the coming week, school board members will begin hearing recommendations on changing school start and dismissal times in the next school year. That means middle schools and high schools that start around 7:30 a.m. could start even earlier. Elementary schools that start a little after 9 a.m. could start later.

The school board usually adopts its upcoming school year bell schedule by the end of March.

One option under consideration is to allow school buses to drive on the shoulder like some transit are permitted to do.

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