Amid a growing district, the Sherman Independent School District is contemplating staggering the start of the school day for its campuses. The district discussed potentially setting up two tiers for start times Tuesday night as a part of its planning for the 2020 school year.

The upcoming school year will represent a year of major changes across the district triggered by the opening of the new Sherman High School.

The existing high school will be converted into the district's second middle school and move away from the intermediate school model. These changes will also allow Dillingham Intermediate to be converted into an elementary school and change the coverage area for the district's campuses.

“We have discussed some of the challenges we have with our routing system,” Sherman ISD Superintendent of Finance and Operations Tyson Bennett said Tuesday. “As your district grows, it becomes pertinent that you set up multiple tiers within your riding system.”

The district is currently considering setting two tiers of campuses for the purpose of start times. The first tier would include Fred Douglass Early Childhood Center, while the second tier would include the two middle schools and Sherman High School, Bennett said.

The ongoing conversation on staggering start times for district campuses started more than two years ago and predates the the development of the new high school. At the time, district officials considered this as a way to address several issues including reducing student time on buses, overcrowding, behavior issues and multi-age riding.

“We want to continually address overcrowding and the natural capacity of our buses,” Bennett said.

Under the current system, Bennett said some routes have students on buses for more than an hour. These lengthy trips and crowded buses, combined with students from different age groups riding together, can lead to some behavioral issues for students in the late afternoon.

In 2018, the district considered options for how long to stagger the start times between tiers before recommending that they be separated by 50 minutes. However, Bennett said Tuesday night that this was too long and 40 minutes would be preferable. District officials would like to drive this down closer to 30 minutes, but Bennett said that might be unrealistic given the district's current resources.

By staggering these times, Bennett said the district can potentially separate bus trips by age group. This will have a benefit in the event of a discipline issue by reducing the number of campuses that are involved.

Bennett also said a tier system could have additional benefits for parents with children in different age groups. By staggering the times, parents will have more time in the morning to drop off their children at different campuses.

The district has already begun planning with its routing service providers for the change, and currently, the district estimates that it could save up to $300,000 in efficiency improvements by staggering school schedules.

In addition to the staggered times, Bennett said the district has set aside funds each year ahead of the expected transition for additional bus resources. He gave no details about how many buses or additional bus drivers the district might need ahead of the 2020 transition.

Bennett emphasized that no plans have officially been adopted and the changes are still in the planning phase. In the months to come, district officials will discuss these changes and other shifts ahead of the 2020 transition.