At Tuesday night’s Mechanicsburg Area School Board meeting, district officials once again presented a proposal regarding transportation and school start time changes for the 2018-19 school year that board members reviewed last month.
This month’s presentation, however, included concerns that district parents emailed to officials after last month’s presentation.
Under the current system, the district’s first bus pickup for elementary students is 6:50 a.m., with arrival at 7:30 a.m. and building start times of 7:45 a.m. and dismissal at 2:25 p.m. Kindergarten runs from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.
At the secondary level, the first middle school bus pickup is 7:30 p.m., with arrival at 8:10 a.m., a building start time of 8:20 and dismissal at 3:20 p.m. The first high school bus pickup is 6:35 a.m., arrival at 7:10 a.m., a building start time of 7:55 a.m. and dismissal at 2:57 p.m.
For 2018-19, administrators propose changing building schedules as follows:
Elementary grades — 7:40 a.m.-2:35 p.m.
Kindergarten — 7:50 a.m.-2:20 p.m.
High school — 8:20 a.m.-3:20 p.m.
Middle school — 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
Kindergarten students would no longer take an additional shuttle from their neighborhood elementary school to the Kindergarten Academy each morning as they do now. Instead, they would share a bus with fourth- and fifth-graders en route to the Elmwood 4/5 Academy. Meanwhile, secondary students would have a much smaller gap between the time they arrive at school in the morning and actual start of classes.
Next year’s proposed changes correspond to an elementary grade reconfiguration that the district will implement at the start of the 2018-19 school year. The Kindergarten Academy’s configuration will remain the same, but Elmwood Elementary School, now housing grades 1-5, will become a district center for grades 4-5. Mechanicsburg’s remaining elementary schools — Broad Street, Northside, Shepherdstown and Upper Allen — will switch from their current composition of grades 1-5 to each serve grades 1-3 for the 2018-19 school year.
Parents’ concerns about the proposal range from elementary students in a same family being dismissed from multiple buildings at different times, before- and after-school care coordination, and what impact the changes would have on children who walk to school.
“We want to prove to you that the option we’re putting on the table has many solutions,” Superintendent Mark Leidy told the school board on Tuesday. “We’re going to open it up to those (parents) who think they have unique circumstances (with this plan). We’re saying, ‘Let’s talk about it and see what options are open.’”
The school board is scheduled to vote on next year’s recommended transportation options on Jan. 23, but Leidy said district officials will continue to communicate with the public about the matter through PTO meetings and school bus assignment letters, as well as communicating with district stakeholders.
In a related matter, Leidy pointed out that Tuesday night’s meeting was the last time the school board will meet in the district offices on the second floor of the Elmwood building. Elmwood’s second floor is being converted into classrooms for next year’s transformation in a district center for grades four and five.
Starting on Jan. 23, the school board will meet at the middle school’s environmental center.
Football coach questions
Also on Tuesday, parents questioned the district’s hiring process for Anthony Rose as the high school’s varsity football coach. The school board approved Rose’s appointment on Tuesday with a unanimous vote. He replaces Billy Furman, who coached the team one season before the district opened the position in November for new candidates.
“Was this job posting internal or internal and external,” asked Rebecca Cappawana, president of Mechanicsburg Midget Football. “It was internal and external the previous year (for Furman’s hiring). What was the vetting process, who was the review committee? What are the minimum requirements for a candidate. … I have an obligation to these (Midget football players) and their parents to ask these questions before a vote.”
Leidy said later in the meeting that the district’s general process for whether to post a job internally or externally depends on need. “If there are more specialized positions available, we will post internally,” he said.
This time, the varsity football coach position was posted only internally, Leidy said. Rose, in fact, is a district faculty member. He began teaching social studies at the high school this year. He is also the ninth grade girls basketball coach, a post he will continue to hold while pursuing offseason football weight training and preparation.