Bus plan tweaks likelyPublished 10:27pm Monday, March 4, 2013
Before requesting an extra $9 million from the city for its next budget, Suffolk’s school district will re-work a controversial proposed new bus schedule, possibly altering the estimated savings.
Savings of up to $865,000 are estimated for the schedule plan in its current form — putting students on a four-bell schedule instead of two, including splitting elementary schools between “A” and “B” bells.
But after parents and others raised concerns during three public input sessions last week, School Board members at a work meeting Monday instructed district Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Kevin Alston to make some improvements.
Changes, could, for instance, include not splitting elementary schools between two separate bells.
An alternative schedule proposal will be presented to the March 14 regular School Board meeting and posted online for feedback, board members decided Monday. A final decision on the proposed schedule, based on feedback of the tweaked version, will be decided at a work session March 21.
District Superintendent Deran Whitney made it clear during Monday’s meeting that altering the district’s proposed $148.28 million 2013-2014 budget, which incorporates a cost-of-living raise for all educators and an extra bump for those in their seventh, eighth and ninth years with the district, could affect instructional staffing levels.
“If we are talking about significantly reducing this budget … we see the budget is 80 percent personnel,” Whitney said.
“We are going to have to talk about class sizes. An increase of one to two students, that would eliminate 20 teaching positions … (and) would save us about a million dollars. Eliminating 20 teacher assistants, that can save $430,000.
“Those are the kind of big-ticket items that we are going to have to start looking at if we are going to reduce this budget.”
After questioning by board member Judith Brooks-Buck, Whitney said that budget items like graduation coaches as well as specialists and class size reduction teachers would be struck first.
About 150 parents and other community members attended the bus schedule input sessions at Lakeland and Nansemond River high schools and King’s Fork Middle School, Alston reported.
A 9:40 a.m. start and 3:55 p.m. dismissal for “B” elementary schools was the biggest concern, he said, followed by child-care issues.
Some board members echoed another concern parents voiced at input sessions: how the staggered schedule will result in a better system, cutting down on students waiting at bus stops, when it would use 30 fewer contracted drivers.
“The nice thing about the new plan would be that 20-something absent drivers would be taken care of each day,” Alston said. “They would be on call to fill in for those drivers that are out.”
Whitney said, “I’d like to think we could still have a staggered schedule, but with specific adjustments that the public has shared with us.”