Change in school times proposed in North Hills

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North Hills School District officials are contemplating changing start and dismissal times for classes and the transportation schedule for safety reasons.

"When you have 2,400 students, 160 adult employees and 220 student drivers converging on the same place in a 20-minute window, it's dangerous," Superintendent Pat Mannarino said after a board meeting in December.

The proposal calls for starting classes at the high school (grades 9-12) at 7:20 a.m., 20 minutes earlier than the current time, and dismissing them at 2 p.m., 45 minutes earlier.

The middle school (grades 7 and 8) would start at 7:50 a.m., 10 minutes earlier, and dismiss at 2:50 p.m., five minutes later.

Highcliff and West View elementary schools would start and finish 30 minutes earlier, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. McIntyre and Ross elementary schools would start and finish 15 minutes later, from 9:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m.

Under the proposed transportation plan, high school buses no longer would transport middle school students, and middle school students would share buses with West View and Highcliff elementary students in the afternoon.

The proposal would reduce the current 33 high school buses carrying 2,052 students to 23 buses carrying 1,349 students.

For the middle school, the proposed schedule has 21 buses carrying 703 students in the morning and 23 buses carrying 1,519 students in the afternoon.

The proposed elementary program calls for West View to have seven buses and Highcliff, Ross and McIntryre to have nine buses each.

The changes are anticipated to save the district between $278,000 by cutting six buses and $464,000 by eliminating 10 buses.

Transportation costs account for 4 percent of annual spending, or more than $2.5 million.

Those costs include transporting 500 non-public school students.

"You're going to have students be able to get to the high school parking lot without having to dodge buses, without having to dodge cars and get across that sidewalk, because you don't have 14 to 20 buses putting middle school kids out in front of the middle school," Mr. Mannarino said Jan. 7.

The current system, he said, with buses stopping in front of the middle school entrance, at the high school entrance and with private vehicles arriving on campus, "creates the massive gridlock that drops cars all the way down to Rochester Road. It's a safety issue, it's concerning, and [the proposed plan] allows us to break apart that gridlock."

School board members are expected to vote on the proposed changes to the school day hours and busing schedule on Feb. 18.

More discussion is expected at the board's legislative session at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the junior high large group instruction room; at the education committee's meeting with the PTA/PTSO Task Force from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in the Central Administration Center, 135 Sixth Ave., Ross; at the board's work session at 7 p.m. Feb. 4 in the Central Administration Center conference room; and at the legislative session at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18 in the junior high LGI Room.

The proposed measures are far from final.

Board member Jeff Meyer said at the Jan. 7 meeting, "As far as I know, that's not the case. We're still considering all the options."

David Hall, director of finance and operations, said the plan would reduce the number of buses from the hilltop campus.

"But more importantly," Mr. Hall said, "you're eliminating a majority of the senior high teachers' cars, majority of senior high students' cars, and you're going from 2,000 students flooding that campus to 700 students in a much more constrained area in front of the junior high school."

education - neigh_north

Chris Checchio, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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