By Linda Dillman
Canal Winchester Schools are dropping the district’s in-school mask mandate and creating a new school start and end time schedule to address a continuing shortage of bus drivers.
During its Feb. 14 meeting, the Canal Winchester Board of Education unanimously agreed to drop the mask metric effective immediately and move to masks recommended, but not required, except during transportation, where masks are still required.
“The mask metric was put in place in October and I believe the metric has done its purpose and served us well,” said Superintendent James Sotlar. “One of the reasons it was put in place was vaccines were not available for all students at that time. Since that time, vaccines are now available for all our students. We’re now at the point where case rates are dropping dramatically, even in our school buildings. We don’t require it at athletic events and in our community it is not required.”
Sotlar said it was time to move on and give the choice back to parents whether or not their child wears a mask in school. The district is also moving ahead with the adoption of a four-tier schedule for school start and stop times in addressing the busing situation.
In the last 12 months, 11 drivers have resigned. Three out of eight new drivers hired by the district have resigned according to Dr. Mike Bruning, operations director. The new routes will be re-bid by drivers because there is a significant difference compared to current routes.
“We’re not making the change just to make a change,” said Sotlar. “We’re doing this because we have to reduce the amount of routes due to a lack of bus drivers. I know it’s another change for us. I know it’s hard, but if we don’t go to a four-tier system, what’s going to happen is we’ll have buses running late to and from school. You’re talking a half hour to 45 minutes late or even longer.”
Bruning said the change allows the district to reduce the number of routes, while still providing transportation for all students. He said the trade off is drivers will be driving a longer distance and putting more miles on buses.
“This is what we’re going to be doing from this point forward,” said Bruning. “We put this in place. We’ll get everyone to school.”
The revision places all buildings on different time schedules and creates new routes for all students starting March 7. Information will be available on PowerSchool accounts any time after Feb. 28.
The new school start/stop times are: middle school, 7:15 a.m.—1:45 p.m.; high school. 7:55 a.m.—2:33 p.m.; Winchester Trail AM PK, 8:50—11:25 a.m.; Winchester Trail elementary, 8:55 a.m.—3:15 p.m.; Winchester Trail PM PK, 12:40—3:15 p.m.; Indian Trail AM kindergarten, 9:30 a.m.—12:05 p.m.; Indian Trail elementary, 9:35 a.m.—3:55 p.m.; Indian Trail PM kindergarten, 1:20—3:55 p.m.