PEORIA (WEEK) -- Peoria Public Schools finalized plans Monday to use a three-tiered bell schedule for the 2021-2022 school year, in large part due to a shortage of bus drivers.
Superintendent Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat says the district is short around 20 bus drivers.
"We are about 16 to 22 drivers short," Dr. Kherat said. "During the pandemic… that really had a significant impact on our transportation department."
Under the plan, schools will start at three different times, rather than the two-tier system used before the pandemic.
In general, high schools will star earliest and elementary schools will start latest.
The plan will also increase the school day length from this year's 5.5 hours to 6.5 hours. However, that still falls short of the 7-hour schedule in use before the pandemic.
Teacher's Union President Jeff Adkins-Dutro says the shortage of bus drivers shouldn't be used as an excuse.
"One of the fundamental needs of a school district is not being met, getting kids to and from school for a full school day," Adkins-Dutro said. "It's like not serving lunch to a quarter of the kids in your district. That's how we feel about it."
Adkins-Dutro says the shorter schedule will continue to impact teachers who already struggle to connect with students during the pandemic.
Bur Dr. Kherat says the district is well prepared to fill in the gap for now with after school and online learning programs.
She says they plan on returning to the full 7-hour schedule as soon as possible.
"It is definitely an hour more of instruction, and I would say that's a celebration," Dr. Kherat said.