RACINE — Six Racine elementary schools will continue to start one or two hours late come fall because of bus issues.
After about two hours of discussion, the Racine Unified School Board made the decision in a 5-4 vote during a special meeting Monday night.
Parents, staff and board members expressed frustration.
"I think that as a parent, what stands out most to me is these late start times, and the children and families who are most disadvantaged," said board member Auntavia Jackson.
"I literally had to go in line at pick-up and drop-off with handmade fliers to tell parents that this vote was happening," said parent Tamara Patton.
The schools include Dr. Jones, Janes, Olympia Brown, S.C. Johnson, Schulte and West Ridge. They currently begin their school days between 9:05 a.m. and 9:20 a.m. The latest dismissal is 4:11 p.m.
Administrators reconfigured bus routes for the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year based on CDC guidance and bus availability, which yielded six schools starting later.
RUSD has a contract with First Student, and the district supplements routes with the city's bus system.
John Stack, the district's transportation director, said right now the city can allow 15 people on its buses. He stressed the city needs up to 120 days to rehire and train the drivers it had to let go during the pandemic, and he said it won't be ready in time to transport students in September. He added supply and demand for buses and drivers would have made it impossible to not continue the delayed start times.
"Right now there is a bus shortage both locally and nationally and regionally," Stack said. "Everybody's competing for those same buses."
Angelina Cruz, the president of Racine Educators United, said she and other parents and staff are upset about what they call a lack of communication from the district. She said many parents and staff were under the impression the schedule change would only last through the current school year.
"I think the lack of communication around it, the lack of planning around it, it's frankly disrespectful," Cruz said.
In response, administrators said they did the best they could given the circumstances.
"I would love to have told them in November before school choice even started that that might be an option," said chief academic officer Rosalie Daca. "So we communicated it as quickly as we could."
Administrators said they are working on trying to offer childcare options before school.