Bethel Park approves bus service for tutors

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Students who participate in a Bethel Park after-school tutoring program will be able to ride the bus home again.

The school board on Tuesday approved transportation for Independence Middle School students in the Homework Overtime Team program for the remainder of the academic year. The cost is approximately $3,500, according to administrators, and will be covered by money in the Independence budget.

Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose said the program has 18 students, a number that has dropped significantly since bus service for after-school activities was discontinued after the 2011-12 school year.

“In previous years, we had 40 to 60 students participating on any given night,” said Ms. Rose, a former Independence principal.

The board’s approval was by an 8-1 vote, with Jim Means opposing.

“We will be supporting one school with bus transportation and not another school,” he said.

A similar program is in place at Neil Armstrong Middle School.

“Their numbers have not fluctuated since we removed the bus,” Ms. Rose said, explaining that because the school day ends later there, more parents’ schedules allow them to pick up their children after the program.

Other board members also expressed concerns about involving only one school. They plan to examine data about costs and student participation for the remainder of the year before determining whether after-school transportation would continue beyond.

“If we slowly put things back, again, we just need to watch ourselves with the budget cycle,” said Donna Cook, board president.

Most board members agreed to the measure because of the perceived educational benefit for Independence’s seventh- and eighth-graders.

“It is so important for students at that age to develop the discipline of homework,” said Pamela Dobos, a retired Bethel Park teacher. “It can only help to make sure they’re successful in high school.”

In other business Tuesday:

 ■ The school board approved a measure that makes the 2014-15 proposed preliminary general fund budget available for public review.

The district is required to approve the preliminary budget, which lists expenditures at $79.8 million, in order to be eligible to apply for an exception to state Act 1 limitations on property tax increases.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education sets a cap, called an adjusted base index, on how much a school district can raise taxes without being granted an exception, or approval by court or voter referendum. Bethel Park’s index is 2.6 percent. Historically, the district has not raised taxes beyond its index.

The numbers in the preliminary budget could change significantly as the board works on a final budget, which is due by June 30.

 ■  Longtime board member Richard Rose was given a service award by the Pennsylvania School Boards Association.

“The tireless dedication that he’s shown to public education is really second to none,” said Nathan Mains, PSBA executive director, in presenting the award.

Mr. Rose served on the Bethel Park School Board for 23 years before deciding not to seek re-election in 2013.

Harry Funk, freelance writer:

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