WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) – Big changes are on the horizon for the Wichita Falls Independent School District in hopes of saving big bucks, and changes to the district’s plan to bus students to school are just one of the ways Superintendent Dr. Donny Lee hopes to start balancing the budget.
“The goal is to be financially healthy, to be good stewards of taxpayers’ money,” Dr. Lee said. “We are looking for innovative ways to save costs while getting students to school safely and effectively.”
Several weeks were spent discussing a three-level starting time for elementary, middle, and high schools to save the district money.
“What we found is that we would have solved a problem with three-level buses,” said Dr. Lee. “But as we went through that process, we learned that we don’t want to have another five or six problems because we solved one.”
The community agrees with Dr. Lee, as most of the feedback from WFISD parents and teachers has been dismissed.
“So, we’re putting it on hold,” Dr. Lee said. “We will collect more feedback from parents, more feedback from teachers. We’re still looking at three levels, but not for the 2023-24 school year, perhaps pushing that to when 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 house and picking them up in their driveway, those students would walk a short amount of time to a bus hub,” Dr. Lee said. “The bus would come to the hub, collect all the students in one spot, thus reducing the need to commute throughout 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 originating the bus hub idea.
“This is an idea born out of grassroots discussions with the community,” Dr. Lee said.
Community members like Matthew Boyle, who said the idea of walking to a bus stop reminded him of when he was in school.
“I grew up walking to a bus stop,” Boyle said. “So my take is, I think a place at the bus stop, it’s traditional.”
However, times have changed. The world no longer seems to be as safe as it once was, and parents’ top priority is to make sure their children are not in danger. Boyle doesn’t believe there is an inherent threat with these bus hubs.
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” Boyle said. “I mean, you’re always going to have problems at the bus stop, but other than that, I mean, it’s just kid stuff.”
The idea is still in its infancy, and details of where the hubs will be and how they would work are still being developed.
“It should be a large, open, well-lit parking lot. So you must have all these indicators. And it won’t be for every single grader. It would only be for specific ones,” Dr. Lee said. “It depends on the routes, the number of children and the location.”
At the end of the day, this decision only affects dollars.
“The cost of buses, fuel and drivers definitely drive most of the conversations,” said Dr. Lee.
But the only way to know whether or not this bus hub idea is a good one is to try it, which is exactly what Dr. Lee plans to do next school year.
“For the next year, 23-24, we will experiment with hubs and if it is very successful, we could roll it out to the whole district,” said Dr. Lee.