School Start and End Times

FAQ - Transportation: Balancing School Start and End Times

FAQ - Transportation: Balancing School Start and End Times

Minneapolis Public Schools transports 70% of its students to and from their homes each day, safely delivering students to schools, daycares and after-school activities. As MPS examines ways to balance its budget after successive years of budget deficits, it makes sense to examine the many routes and services provided for student transportation.

Changes to bell times--meaning school start and end times--is part of a greater effort to streamline and increase efficiencies for MPS transportation services overall. As MPS works toward achieving a sound balanced budget, additional cost-effective transportation changes may be identified for the 2019-20 budget year and beyond.

A fact sheet (PDF) is available on bell time changes for 20 schools. (Hmong, Somali, Spanish)

1. How much money does the district expect to save by changing school bell times?

Currently, MPS buses transport students to schools with 29 different start times for its 68 schools, the result of years of tweaking individual school schedules. By better aligning school bell times MPS can save up to $2 million out of its general fund budget.

2. How are transportation costs and bell times (school start and end times) related?

Transportation efficiencies can be improved by balancing the number of schools that start at the same time so buses can be used more evenly over the day rather than clumping runs early in the morning. Here’s a snapshot of the issue:

In order to balance bell times, MPS must shift more schools to a 9:30 a.m. start time so that bus runs will be more evenly spread out and to provide buses with enough time to get from one school to the next.

  • There are 29 different start times for 68 schools.
  • 21 schools with regular education bussing have start times between 7:30 a.m. and 8:05 a.m.
  • But only 6 schools have start times after 9:30 a.m.
  • As a result, MPS has 78 extra buses on the road in the morning to get students to schools on time.
  • But then after the big push early in the morning, there is no need for the 78 extra buses which are then sent to the garage, which is inefficient and costly.

The cost savings comes from getting multiple, extended runs from one bus. Fewer buses on longer shifts means less fuel and maintenance, less driver turnover and a more stable driver workforce; in turn, more consistent drivers forges better relationships with students and results in safer buses.

2. Which schools are having their bell times changed? What parameters were used to make these decisions?

Twenty schools have been identified for changing their bell times starting the fall of 2018; please see the list of schools.

As changes to bell times were being considered, the goal was to minimize to the greatest extent possible the negative effects on families and staff.

As a result, the goal was to keep the change in bell times to within an hour of the original start and end times as much as possible. For 16 out of the 20 schools affected, bell times changes were within the hour with some schools only changing by 5 minutes on one end of the spectrum and 4 schools stretching the 60-minute change to 70 minutes.

5. As you made your decisions on changing bell times at certain schools, did you consider the predicament of families who have to adjust their child care?

As part of the assessment process, staff met with the District Parent Advisory Council and Special Education Advisory Council to get initial input on how changing bell times might affect families and staff. The district also convened an internal committee of department leaders and principals.

MPS realizes that changing bell times will affect families’ schedules. Families will have to make enrollment decisions based on how changes in times affect their family’s schedule. Some families will likely prefer the change in schedule, while other families will need to adjust their before- and after-school child care. Transitions like these are a natural part of a child’s progression through grade levels.

If a family needs to change their school due to bell time changes, Student Placement Services staff are available to help families navigate their school options by dropping in at one of two sites or calling one of these phone numbers, or emailing.

  • Student Placement Services, 1250 W. Broadway Ave., 55411; Ph: 612.668.1840
  • New Families Center - Door #1, 3345 Chicago Ave., 55407; Ph: 612.668.3700
  • Multilingual: 612.668.1842; Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.;

6. How often does MPS change school bell times? Will bell times be adjusted annually going forward?

From year to year, certain schools may decide to change their bell times, but district-wide changes are infrequent, but additional changes may happen in the future as the district continues ongoing assessments on how to streamline services and address budget deficits.

7. How deeply has MPS studied how to improve school bell time efficiencies?

As recently as 2014, MPS has commissioned external assessments on how to improve transportation services. Conclusions from these studies have consistently shown that maintaining a bell time schedule that is unbalanced between start times is costly to the district.

8. Did the analysis of bell time changes consider the needs of middle school student athletic programs by synchronizing middle schools with their partner high schools?

Considerations for coordinating middle and high school bell times for the purposes of athletics was studied; however, doing so would have added an estimated $4 million to current transportation costs. Coordination is further complicated by the geographic layout of the city and efficiencies needed for 45-60 minutes between bus runs. An Athletics Equity Diversity Impact Assessment is currently underway and those findings will be used to consider how we might improve Middle School sports and activities.

9. Does MPS charge for transporting non-MPS students to charter and private schools?

By state law, MPS must provide transportation for students who attend non-MPS schools such as a charter or private school. However, the state does reimburse MPS for transporting these students. MPS can also determine the bell times for these non-MPS schools so they are aligned to broader, district-wide transportation needs.