The Leander ISD board of trustees approved the new bell schedule for the 2022-23 school year at the June 23 meeting.

The board adopted the bell schedule, which is 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for elementary schools, shifted 10 minutes earlier; 8:15 a.m. to 3:35 p.m. for high schools, shifted 25 minutes earlier; and 9:05 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. for middle schools, shifted 55 minutes later.

On May 19, a bell schedule for the 2022-23 school year was presented in a report to the school board after adjustments were made. The district faced serious challenges transporting students in the 2021-22 school year, according to district documents, which is what prompted the adjustments to the bell schedule. Increased traffic in the area, increased ridership and driver shortages caused several routes to arrive at campuses 15-30 minutes late.

After two outside companies audited LISD’s transportation department this past school year, it was recommended the district adjust bell schedules to include a minimum of 45-55 minutes between each level to more effectively transport students. The new bell schedule adjustment helps improve traffic congestion, reduce expenditures by nearly $1 million and get students to school in a timely manner.

Initially, the proposed 2022-23 bell schedule was 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. for elementary school, shifted 10 minutes earlier; 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for middle school, shifted 5 minutes earlier; and 9 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. for high school, shifted 20 minutes later.

The board had the option to approve the 2022-23 bell schedule as presented at the May 19 meeting, return to the 2021-22 bell schedule given all the challenges it caused or adjust the order of the proposed schedule from ES/MS/HS to ES/HS/MS.

Four of the board members voted to approve the ES/HS/MS bell schedule, while board President Trish Bode voted against the change and Trustee Elexis Grimes abstained from the vote.

“We know that busing was hard this year, and it’s not going to get significantly easier,” Trustee Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia said at the June 23 meeting. “So doing this would allow us to provide better bus service and also save money.”

Bode expressed concern about such a “dramatic change” in the bell schedules for middle school students.

“When I see that dramatic change for middle school students, I don’t feel comfortable voting to support that,” she said. “I understand where our heart is though, I understand why Christine is looking at that—so I’m not saying it’s out of the blue; I’m just saying I don’t feel comfortable supporting it looking at the major change that would end up making on our students.”

Trustee Christine Mauer’s vote was based on feedback from students who have jobs and have to support their younger siblings after school.

“We’re talking about child care and families counting on those older kiddos to help out in their family situation,” Mauer said. “I know this is not going to be easy for anybody, and for me, it was a lot of responses regarding work, that was the biggie, and being able to support their families at home.”

Grimes brought up the possibility of an increase of unsupervised middle school students in the morning with the ES/HS/MS bell schedule.

“Will we have an increase of unsupervised middle school kids in the morning, whereas afternoon you have other opportunities and participation, things happening that they’re not home alone,” Grimes said. “I get why it’s important and how it affects UIL and the other things—whatever way we go tonight, I think we have to do a big cycle feedback and kind of get that middle school feedback because I don't think they were expecting this.”

Administrative staff recommended forming a committee of community members, students and staff to review the impact of the current bell schedule and provide recommendations for the 2023-24 bell schedule to the board in spring of next year. If authorized, the committee would meet this fall.

Editor's note: This story was updated to correct the approved bell schedule.