Taft HS may start classes earlier in the fall


Classes may start 15 minutes earlier this fall at Taft High School to save money on bus transportation, while the recent addition of two security guards at the school meant that funds were not available to hire an assistant librarian.

"We are one of nine schools which don’t do paired busing," Taft acting principal Carolyn Rownd said at the April 1 meeting of the Taft High School Local School Council. "They are trying to pair us with another group, which is what most of CPS does.

The school system spends about $23 million on school bus expenses for those nine schools, and it is estimated that about $10 million would be saved if the schools paired buses, Rownd said. Under that system, a driver picks up and delivers students to one school and then drives a second route for another school with a later starting time.

Taft was given choice of a starting time of 7:30 a.m. or 9 a.m., but the later start would mean that students with extracurricular activities would not get home until 7 p.m., Rownd said. Classes currently start at 7:45 a.m. and the dismissal time is 3:03 p.m.

"This is not a done deal yet," Rownd said. She said that she expects a decision to be made by the end of April and that students and parents will be notified immediately of any change.

Each of the schools is being offered a portion of the transportation savings. Rownd said that Taft was offered $40,000 but that she hopes to receive closer to $100,000, which is the average cost of a teacher’s salary and benefits.

The change should provide Taft with more consistency in its drivers, some of whom have left the job in the middle of the school day, Rownd said. Taft uses two school buses for its special needs students and five buses for students in its Seventh and Eighth Grade Academic Center.

Also at the meeting, Rownd reported that while the recent hiring of security guards has allowed the school to better address the problem of smoking in the school, it was done so at the expense of hiring an assistant librarian. "I would have like to have had the library open longer," Rownd said.

The decision to hire the security guards was based on concerns expressed at LSC meetings, Rownd said. Some LSC members said that additional guards have helped to create a better learning environment by addressing several issues at the school.

The smell of cigarette smoke bothers many students, some of whom have reported violators, Rownd said. "Kids are actually giving up other students," she said. "Something with the design of this building, smoke really lingers."

It also was reported that parking on Bryn Mawr Avenue in front of the school’s main entrance will be prohibited from 7 to 9 a.m. and from 2 to 4 p.m. during the school year. The parking ban is designed to reduce traffic congestion and increase pedestrian safety during student pick-up and drop-off times.

It also was announced that a group of students plan to conduct a parent survey on the school’s dress code. The students want to increase the number of clothing items permitted by the code, which requires a white collared shirt and dark blue or black pants, including jeans.

Rownd said that a possible dress code change "is not well received by the faculty." One LSC member suggested implementing a revised code on a trial basis.

It also was announced that new signs stating that dogs must be kept on a leash will be posted on the school grounds following recent complaints. "We ask that if you see a dog without a leash, we ask that you politely address the issue with the owner," Rownd said. "If you need to, please call the police."

A dinner and dance celebrating Taft’s 75th anniversary is planned for Saturday evening, Sept. 27, at the Ridgemoor Country Club in Harwood Heights. Tickets cost $58, and information on the event is available online at www.tafthsfoundation.org.

The next LSC meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 6.