In response to community meetings and stakeholder input last year, Atlanta Public Schools is presenting two Safety and Transportation initiatives for public consideration in a series of meetings this week and next. The Live Blog for the School Safety and Transportation Meeting at Grady High School on Wednesday is included below.
While parents and community members might have expected more information on current security processes and concerns, the School Safety and Transportation Focus Group Sessions are to gather input, feedback and recommendations regarding two specific proposals for 2013-2014:
1) APS Director of Security Chief Marquenta Sands briefly presented a New Safety and Security Model, with six areas of focus, including what may be the biggest change on the horizon: the move toward "100 percent APS Law Enforcement Services," which would replace Atlanta police officers currently working in the schools on a part-time, rotational basis with full-time APS employees as Resource Officers assigned to individual schools on a more permanent basis.
2) APS Director of Transportation John Lyles then presented the plan for "Detailed Current vs. Proposed Bell Schedules," which is a fairly substantial adjustment of transportation schedules and school day start and end times for all APS elementary, middle and high schools, beginning in the 2013-2014 school year.
Lyles outlined the disadvantages of the current transportation schedule, which has APS buses running elementary, middle and high school routes on 15-minute intervals, leaving little time for the intricacies of Atlanta traffic and no room for inevitable "glitches" that routinely occur to delay timely service. Disadvantages of current schedule: Student safety, lost instructional time, students late for breakfast, faculty late dismissal, inconsistent arrival times, and long rides for special needs students.
According to Lyles, "We can leave things the way they are, but we would need to have dedicated bus schedules and buses for the high schools. This would require 50 new buses, at a cost of about $100,000 each. APS would prefer to spend that money in the classrooms."
Advantages of new schedules: Improved student safety, improved on-time arrival, improved breakfast participation, improved ride times for special needs students, and avoid adding 50 new buses.
Changes at the elementary level would include moving the start of the school day up 15 minutes, from 8 a.m. Bell to 7:45 a.m. Bell, with a 2:15 p.m. Dismissal, instead of 2:30 p.m. The a.m. Bus Drop Off at elementary schools would be 7-7:15 a.m.; students would arrive home earlier in the afternoon, by 2:25 p.m.
At the middle schools, the start of the school day would be pushed back 20 minutes, from 8:45 a.m. Bell to 9:05 a.m., with Dismissal at 4:05 p.m., instead of 3:45 p.m. The a.m. Bus Drop at middle schools would remain the same, 8:35-8:50 a.m., with additional time for Breakfast before the 9:05 a.m. Bell.
At the high schools, the a.m. Bell would be 15 minutes later, from 8:15 a.m. currently to 8:30 a.m. Bell, with afternoon dismissal 15 minutes later, at 3:30 p.m. instead of 3:15 p.m.
There are two more School Safety and Transportation Focus Group Sessions scheduled next week for public input and comment:
January 15, 2013 - 6 to 8 p.m. at Carver High School of Technology
January 16, 2013 - 6 to 8 p.m. at Bolton Academy
The proposals will be presented to the Atlanta Board of Education on January 14 and February 4, with Phased-Program Implementation July 1, 2013 - December 13, 2013.
The APS contact regarding the School Safety and Transportation Focus Group Sessions and Proposals is Nicole Knighten, Associate Superintendent’s Office of External Affairs
Atlanta Public Schools
130 Trinity Avenue, SW
Atlanta, GA 30303
The Live Blog
Atlanta Public Schools
School Safety & Transportation Focus Group Session
Grady High School
Meeting has begun.
Facilitator: Nicole Knighten, External Affairs Mgr
Chief Marquenta Sands, APS Director of Security
John Lyles, Director of Transportation
Chief Marquenta Sands - Meeting tonight is for community involvement and interaction, following up on stakeholder meetings started last year. Not in response to Sandy Hook tragedy.
New Safety & Security Model presented to ensure children are educated every day, with a focus on curriculum & instruction, without having to worry about their safety & security.
1) Safety v. Security
2) Proactive Stance
3) Enhanced Community Partnerships
4) 100% APS Law Enforcement Services
5) Region & Cluster-based Support
6) Increased Training for APS School-based Staff
Chief Sands: How can we better serve you?
Mr. Lyles is going to talk about Transportation.
#1 Focus is Safety & Student Achievement. Horrendous traffic in Atlanta. Our drivers are the most professional group of drivers anywhere in the state, facing the challenge of our city traffic.
40,000 student trips per day. 7 million trips per school year.
Current vs. Proposed Bell Schedules--Power Point
Interesting changes proposed? Currently 15 minutes between pick up times. Avg. route time 14 - 15 minutes. One small glitch can bottle up the entire transportation process.
Disadvantages of Current Schedule: Student safety, lost instructional time, students late for breakfast, faculty late dismissal, inconsistent arrival times, long rides for special needs students.
This may be the big news of the night, as the Proposed Bell Schedule will affect start times for elem, middle and high schools in APS. Mr. Lyles is really working to sell the new proposed schedules.
Advantages of New Schedule: improved student safety, improved on-time arrival, improved breakfast participation, improved ride times for special needs students, avoid adding 50 buses.
We can leave things the way they are, but we would need to have dedicated bus schedule and buses for high school. Require 50 buses @ $100,000 each. APS would prefer to spend that money in the classroom.
Ms. Knighten invites comments from the audience.
Sarah Cook, parent - Mary Lin Elem - why would middle schoolers be going to school before the high schoolers? Adolescent development would seem to indicate high school students better served with later schedule.
APS will address questions on website. They are hoping to get input, recommendations & suggestions without Q&A tonight.
Ms. Pruitt, principal at MES, responds that research indicates it is the middle school kids that need to be on the later schedule.
Interested in finding out more about the decisions of adding resource officers at the high school level? Also put a plug in for getting a flashing light signal at Grady.
Chief Sands - various factors considered in allocating resources across all of the needs across the district to achieve safe schools.
Tracy & Tyler, MES parent & student - comments re: young children on the bus, parent concerns. Need better communication to help parents feel safe putting their young children on the buses. Seat belts? Adult to child ratio? Tagging kids to ensure they will be left at correct stops? Communication? Monitoring on the bus?
MES Parent - traffic safety, need officer to direct traffic at school exit. Currently, principal and a teacher are in the street directing traffic, which is a huge liability. Also at MES, no secure way to check visitors into the building, parent volunteers. Request for resource officer on a part-time basis for greater security.
Leslie Grant - Jackson parent - encourage proactive planning for security as schools are changing buildings. Interested in more information about the possibility of bringing security in-house, APS officers.
Chief Sands addresses challenges - difficult to find officers who will agree to work short periods of time - i.e. traffic direction. Bids are out, very difficult to find someone who will take that part-time position. 233 APD officers to fill 55 APS positions, APD is priority for these officers.
Chief Sands - When we are not proactive we have to ask ourselves if we are not feeding the school-to-prison pipeline. Building familiarity, having a regular officer involved in the school, focus on security. APS officers would be able to establish a connection to the community they serve.
Chief Sands - in all sincerity, looking for parent input. What happens next? Meetings this week, meeting with Board next week. Board Presentations Jan. 14 & Feb. 4th. Phased-Program Implementation July 1, 2013 - December 13, 2013.
SPARK PTA President - kudos to bus drivers. Comment about proposed schedule. For Spark, unintended consequence more cars on the road, increase in traffic. Proposed Bell Schedule will force elementary students to be at bus stops before 7am.
Mary Lin Parent - question model for proposed resource officers. Interested in information about safety in schools now? Are officers armed? How will the school resource officers be brought into instruction? Come into the classroom? At all schools or only as-needed?
Parent - within proposed model, could resource officers serve as traffic direction before & after school?
Parent - recognizes a great difference in safety consciousness at her schools and appreciates that. Improved safety & security at Jackson HS. Visible security presence and effective interaction. Doing what needs to be done to keep our kids safe. You can see the difference. (PTA President at Coen)
No further comments. Ms. Knighten closed the meeting.