PEORIA (WEEK) — Peoria Public Schools will not be returning to pre-pandemic school hours. However, it was not because of COVID-19 safety like the district initially said, but instead due to a lack of bus drivers.
PPS Director of Transportation, Jeff Collins said it was their only option, but the teachers union said otherwise.
“They should be even if they have to go door to door to find bus drivers, whatever is necessary to get kids to school for a full school day,” said Jeff Adkins-Dutro, President of the Peoria Federation of Teachers.
Peoria Public School District said a shortage of at least 20 bus drivers stopped them from returning to a 7-hour learning day.
“Right now it’s not an issue of money, it’s an issue of applicants,” Collins continued, “the compromise there was to go to a six and a half hour day so that the students would be going no later than four o’clock.”
PPS bus drivers starting pay is $14.50 an hour. Collins said the district was currently negotiating the pay.
However, Adkins-Dutro said he was ready to fight against the decision.
“We want to see 20 bus drivers by next school year, we want a two tiered schedule, and we want a full school day. No excuses,” said Adkins-Dutro.
PPS said they were not the only school using a shortened schedule. Collins said this solution prevented them from having to take kids off the bus list and unreliable student pick up and drop off.
“It is ironic and really hypocritical to say you want to go on to balance calendar to make up for learning loss. And then you’re going to cut the school day by half an hour for an entire school year,” said Adkins-Dutro.
Compared to pre-pandemic hours, the students would be losing 30 minutes a day. That’s two and a half hours every week and adds up to almost 13 learning days in total.
“If we wanted to run a seven hour day to go to 4:30 that I don’t think anybody would be comfortable with 4:30 so we settled on four o’clock,” said Collins.
The new bell schedules presented around these hours will be voted on or given a consensus at the next school board meeting.
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