The Fox C-6 School District will change when the school day begins and ends at 15 of its 17 schools starting Monday (Sept. 27), about a month after the school year started.
Superintendent Paul Fregeau said the start and end times at those schools are changing partly because the district has a shortage of bus drivers. In addition, some upcoming road construction projects in the district are expected to disrupt routes through 2024.
Families were notified of the new schedules by email after Fregeau announced the changes during the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 21).
The district has three bus tiers – the time buses leave to pick up students, and with the changes, that will give drivers 50 minutes between each tier, Fregeau said.
“We are hopeful for the 50-minute buffer between each tier that will allow for the different traffic patterns that have to occur,” he said. “Our transportation department and administration will allow for that.”
Ridgewood Middle School between Arnold and Fenton will see the biggest changes. The school’s start time has been moved from 7 a.m. to 7:55 a.m., and it will dismiss students at 3 p.m. instead of 2:05 p.m.
Guffey Elementary School in Fenton and Seckman Elementary School in Imperial each will start the day 40 minutes later, moving from 8:10 a.m. to 8:50 a.m. Those schools also will dismiss students 40 minutes later with the final bell sounding at 3:50 p.m. instead of 3:10 p.m.
Antonia Middle School in Barnhart and Seckman Middle School in Imperial will adjust start times by 20 minutes and dismissal times by 25 minutes. The school day at those two schools will start at 7:55 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m., and the day will end at 3 p.m. instead of 2:35 p.m.
Seckman High School in Imperial will begin its school day 35 minutes earlier, with the first bell sounding at 7 a.m. instead of 7:35 a.m., and the school will dismiss students at 2:05 p.m. instead of 2:35 p.m.
Rockport Heights Elementary School in Arnold will start and end its school day 30 minutes earlier, with the first bell sounding at 7:40 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m. and the final bell going off at 2:40 p.m. instead of 3:10 p.m.
Sherwood and Simpson elementary schools will begin and end the school day 10 minutes earlier. School will start at those buildings at 8 a.m. instead of 8:10 a.m., and those schools will finish the day at 3 p.m. instead of 3:10 p.m.
Five elementary schools – Antonia, Clyde Hamrick and Hodge, all in Imperial, and Lone Dell and Meramec Heights, both in the Arnold area – also have changed start and dismissal times. Those schools begin the day at 8:50 a.m. instead of 8:40 a.m. and finish at 3:50 p.m. instead of 3:40 p.m.
Fox Elementary will start the school day 30 minutes earlier moving to an 8:10 a.m. start time instead of 8:40 a.m. The school will end the day at 3:10 p.m. instead of 3:40 p.m.
Fox Middle and Fox High schools in Arnold will see no change in its schedule and will still start at 7 a.m. and dismiss at 2:05 p.m.
Fregeau said the adjusted times have more to do with expected changes in traffic patterns because of numerous upcoming road projects, including work on Old Lemay Ferry and Miller roads.
He said the new times likely will remain in place until at least 2024 when most of the major road work is expected to be complete.
Fregeau said the district has heard some complaints about delaying the day at elementary schools.
“That is where we have heard the most issue with how late our elementary kids are, and we understand that,” he said. “(The changes are) necessary to make sure kids are on time to school and getting home.”
Fregeau said the district decided to adjust the school schedule instead of reducing the number of students it would transport to and from schools by requiring families who live within 1 ½ miles or so from their schools to provide their own transportation.
“This allows every kid who wants and needs a bus ride to have it,” Fregeau said. “The only way we would get to a point that it would save us routes was eliminating 2,800 kids, and I was never going to sign off on not transporting 2,800 kids.”
Before the start of this school year on Aug. 25, the district already had changed school start times and end times from when they were last school year, with 11 of the district’s schools starting between 20 minutes and an hour earlier or five to 15 minutes later. Those schools also ended the day between 20 minutes and an hour earlier or five minutes to 10 minutes later.
“I know this is a very tough imposition to change school schedules midstream,” Fregeau said. “We changed at the beginning of the year, evaluated the plan and adjusted again. We have 13 major road projects coming up between now and 2024, so this is not a short-term issue that we will be dealing with. We had to allow for more time between schools to allow for buses to get there on time.”
COVID-19 quarantine change
The district also has tweaked how it handles quarantining students and staff members who may have been exposed to COVID-19 at school.
Fox still will require everyone to wear a mask in buildings in most situations, but it no longer will require students and staff with no symptoms to quarantine at home after possible exposure to the virus in non-mask situations, like eating lunch, being outdoors or involved in a sporting activity.
The new policy, which was developed by the Jefferson County Health Department, will allow those exposed to the virus during those school activities to continue to attend classes and observe extracurricular activities as long as they wear a mask at all times and do not develop symptoms.
The students and staff members under in-school quarantine will eat lunch together to limit the possible exposure of the virus to more people in buildings.
Fox will return to the traditional quarantine policy of sending students and staff members home if a building reaches a 4 percent positivity rate or if the district as a whole has 4 percent or more active cases.
Board members voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt the new quarantine policy, which went into effect today (Sept. 22).
“We are hopeful this protocol will allow more kids to stay in school and not have to work from home,” Fregeau said. “That should help our families as well, who have to figure out how to take care of kids during quarantine.”