WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — Big changes are on the horizon for the Wichita Falls Independent School District with the hope of saving big bucks, and changes to the district’s plan for busing students to school is just one of the ways Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee hopes to begin to balance the budget.
“The goal is to be financially sound, to be good stewards of taxpayer’s money,” Dr. Lee said. “We’re looking at innovative ways to save cost while at the same time getting students to school safely and effectively.”
Several weeks have been spent discussing a three-tier start time for elementary, middle, and high schools to save the district money.
“What we found is we were gonna solve one problem with three-tier busing,” Dr. Lee said. “But as we went through that process, we learned that we don’t wanna have five or six other problems because we solved one.”
The community agrees with Dr. Lee, as most of the feedback from WFISD parents and teachers has been pushback.
“So, we’re pausing it,” Dr. Lee said. “We’re going to collect more feedback from parents, additional feedback from teachers. We’re still looking at three-tier, but not for the 2023-24 school year, maybe push it to when the new high schools open in 2024-25.”
So, with the three-tier idea on hold, Dr. Lee said district officials are discussing a new option.
“Instead of a bus going to every single home and picking them up in their driveway, those students would walk for a short period of time to a bus hub,” Dr. Lee said. “The bus would come to the hub, pick up all the students at one spot, thus reducing the need to go all across the community with more buses, more time, more expense.”
Dr. Lee credits the people who live, work, and raise their families in the Wichita Falls ISD with the origin of the bus hub idea.
“That is an idea that sprung from the grassroots discussions with the community,” Dr. Lee said.
Community members like Matthew Boyle, who said the idea of going to a bus stop reminds him of when he was in school.
“I grew up walking to a bus stop,” Boyle said. “So my opinion is, I think a location at a bus stop, it’s traditional.”
However, times have changed. The world doesn’t seem as safe as it used to, and parents’ top priority is making sure their kids aren’t in harm’s way. Boyle doesn’t believe there’s any inherent threat with these bus hubs.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Boyle said. “I mean, you’re always going to have issues at the bus stop, but other than that, I mean it’s just typical kid stuff.”
The idea is still in its infancy, and the details of where the hubs will be and how they’d work are still in development.
“It would have to be a large, open parking lot that’s well-lit. So you have to have all these indicators. And it won’t be for every single elementary. It would just be for specific ones,” Dr. Lee said. “It would depend on the routes, the number of kids, and the location.”
At the end of the day, this decision is all about dollars.
“The cost of the buses and the fuel and the drivers definitely drives the majority of the conversations,” Dr. Lee said.
But the only way to know if this bus hub idea is a good one or not is to try it out, which is exactly what Dr. Lee plans to do next school year.
“For the next year, 23-24, we’re gonna experiment with hubs, and if it becomes a great success, we might roll that out district-wide,” Dr. Lee said.