Bethel Park School District will start busing children who are within walking distance of their schools.
At its Sept. 25 meeting, the school board voted 8-0 for the change, which will cost about $255,000 up-front for new buses and about $77,000 a year for additional drivers. A group of parents asked the board to offer transportation because they argued the routes to schools were not safe, due to a lack of sidewalks, blind curves and high traffic.
Typically, students who live within a mile-and-a-half of the high school or Independence Middle School are expected to walk to school. At the elementary and Neil Armstrong Middle schools, the walking zones are about a half-mile. Bus transportation is not available within those areas.
However, district officials will start working on a plan to offer busing to students within the walking areas. It may take several weeks to implement, since some routes may need to be changed, others established and bus drivers will need to be hired. Superintendent Joseph Pasquerilla said he hopes to start offering bus transportation to all children by Nov. 1.
“I want to thank (the administrators) for coming up with some options so that we can help address these problems,” said Director Ken Nagel.
School officials are also working on ways to address concerns raised by some parents of kindergarteners, who asked the board to consider transporting the children to more day care centers.
Bethel Park provides busing to day care, but only within each elementary school’s attendance zone. The district offered transportation to all day cares several years ago, but stopped the practice due to cost. District officials estimate it would cost more than $150,000 a year to offer it again, including midday runs for kindergarteners.
Parent Ken Crowley suggested that if more extended day kindergarten services were offered, it might solve the kindergarten transportation problems. Lois Johnson Child Care Center offers a “wrap-around” program for many half-day kindergarteners, but it is not available for students attending Lincoln Elementary School. School officials said they would try to work with Lois Johnson as well as other day cares to offer the service to more students.
The board also approved the district’s emergency operations plan, which sets procedures that will be followed in the case of an emergency. Pasquerilla described it as a “fluid document” that will be changed as district officials learn through drills and practice what may work best in emergency situations.
The board hired Michael Welsh as school police officer, who will fill a vacancy on the district police force. Welsh is a lieutenant for the Mt. Lebanon Police Department, where he has worked for 21 years. Welsh has a background in crisis negotiation and community outreach, to include drug prevention and anti-bullying programs.
“I look forward to doing a lot of good things to the school here,” he said.
Also during the meeting, the board:
- Hired Tyler Schnupp as long-term substitute second-grade teacher at Ben Franklin Elementary School.
- Approved $10,000 worth of upgrades to the water system at the high school stadium, which will allow limited water service to the concession stand and restrooms for early spring sports teams.
- Approved a $5,500 repair to the electrical wiring to the scoreboard play clock, which has been shorting out due to water buildup.
- Approved a grant application for $25,000 from the Act 44 School Safety and Security competitive grant. The district hopes to use that money to purchase door safety equipment to deter intruders from entering classrooms.