Madison-Plains: What to do about busing, childcare?

(Posted Sept. 29, 2016)

By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer

Two-tier busing and childcare needs continue to come under discussion among Madison-Plains school board members and district parents. The two are on a path to come together in October.

Superintendent Tim Dettwiller presented a pair of proposals for two-tiered busing at the Sept. 27 board meeting. With two-tiered busing, younger students would be transported at one time and older students at another time. Currently, all students are picked up and left off on one busing trip.

With buses making two trips comes the question of who will care for the younger children, either in the morning or in the afternoon, while parents are working.

While Dettwiller worked on a list of pros and cons on his two proposals, a childcare committee worked at determining the need for a school latchkey program. The committee surveyed parents about their childcare needs and contacted area childcare centers to learn about capacity and current enrollment. The committee has two meetings scheduled prior to the Oct.18 school board meeting.

This year all students, from kindergarten through high school, share the same bus. Buses arrive so that all students are on campus by the 7:45 a.m. start time. Classes let out at 2:50 p.m. at both levels.

Under Dettwiller’s first proposal, students in kindergarten through sixth grade would be picked up on the first run and get to the campus to start classes at 7:30 a.m. In this scenario, children can get on the bus before their parents leave for work, leaving no need for morning childcare. However, students would be released at 2:20 p.m., creating a need for afternoon childcare.

After dropping off the younger students, bus drivers would make a second run, picking up students in grades 7-12. Classes for these students would begin at 8:40 a.m. and let out at 3:40 p.m. The late dismissal could make students late for extracurricular activities.

Under Dettwiller’s second proposal, the older students would be picked up on the first run, getting to school by 7:30 a.m. This creates a childcare situation for working parents because the younger students would be picked up later, getting to the campus for a 9 a.m. start time.

Today’s school day is seven hours and five minutes long, but under the superintendent’s proposals, the school day would be shortened by 15 minutes for the elementary students and five minutes for the older students.

By going to two-tier busing, students would be segregated and the kindergarten-aged children would not be riding with the high school students. Students would not be on the bus as long as they are now.

With fewer students on the buses, transportation officials could combine routes and use fewer buses and drivers, according to the proposals. This also shows that the district would not need as many drivers and could make its current part-time driving position into a full-time one.

Under both plans, the district is eligible to receive an increase in state funding.

Dettwiller cited research that indicates students in grade 7-12 should start school at a later hour and that students in the lower grades need more sleep.

His two proposals can be found on the district’s website at www.mplsd.org. He plans to offer his recommendation to the board at the Oct. 18 meeting.

Also at the Oct. 18, district treasurer Todd Mustain will present the district’s five-year forecast, an annual financial picture of where the district stands now and the anticipated income and expenditures for the next five years. The district is already spending more than it takes in but is operating on carry-over funds from previous years.

Mustain has already forecast that the district will soon be in the red and that the district will soon have to go to the voters with an operating levy.

Meanwhile, district residents will be surveyed by phone as a research team helps the district find out the community’s opinion of the schools. The survey will be taken between Nov. 7 and Nov. 14.

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