After months of consideration and study, Mechanicsburg Area School District officials presented a proposal to the school board Tuesday night regarding transportation and school start time changes for the 2018-19 school year.
Proposed changes relate “to an elementary grade reconfiguration scheduled to take place in the district at the start of the 2018-19 school year. Although the Kindergarten Academy’s configuration will remain the same, Elmwood Elementary School, which now accommodates grades 1-5, will become a district center for grades 4-5. The district’s remaining elementary schools — Broad Street, Northside, Shepherdstown and Upper Allen — will switch from their current configurations of grades 1-5 to accommodate grades 1-3 for the 2018-19 school year.
Superintendent Mark Leidy said on Tuesday the board’s decision earlier this year to reconfigure the district’s elementary grades in 2018-19 already is paying off due to continued enrollment growth. “At our current configuration, we would not have been able to fit into two of our elementary schools next year,” Leidy said.
Likewise, the district’s bus routes and start and dismissal times for next year need to be adjusted in tandem with the building reconfigurations, Assistant Superintendent Alan Vandrew said.
Currently, the district runs 27 buses daily through a contract with B&S Transportation. Over time, the efficiency of the district’s route system has “deteriorated” into “piecemeal routes delivery,” due to courses being added or subtracted over the years. Kindergartners must board two buses each morning: one to their neighborhood elementary school, followed by a shuttle to the Kindergarten Academy.
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 are proposing 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.
With this, kindergarten students no longer would take an additional shuttle to school. Instead, they would share a bus with fourth- and fifth-graders en route to Elmwood Elementary School. Middle-schoolers (grades six through eight) would have a much smaller gap between the time they arrive at school in the morning and actual start of school.
The proposal would require six additional buses for the district overall next year for a total additional cost of $216,000. However, the district would receive a projected state reimbursement of $86,400 for the additional costs, Vandrew said.
School board members expressed concerns about the logistics of the proposal because some parents would have children in different elementary grades getting out at different times. School director Ryan Hartman suggested initiating staggered start times next year for grades 1-3 and grades 4-5.
“My brother will have kids in three schools next year,” Hartman said. “How do you pick up three kids from three schools?”
Leidy said that administrators take such matters under consideration before returning to the board with a final proposal.
“Our goal is to bring this back in January and address your comments and get a vote on it as soon as possible,” Leidy told the board.