Bus routes changed for Greencastle-Antrim music students

PAT FRIDGEN

Music students at Greencastle-Antrim High School will get door to door pickup for this school year, but the school board doesn't promise it will continue in the future. Several parents who attended the Oct. 20 meeting asked that the current policy be amended, because four pickup points in Antrim Township were not convenient in getting the band and chorus students to the school by 6:40 a.m.

Some parents said they were not consulted about the bus routes, which for the first few weeks had only two stops. They were expanded to four, one in each quadrant, but still didn't make sense to everyone.

Ken Allen said for some kids, the school was closer than the pickup point. Because band and chorus were graded, he said it was the district's responsibility to transport the students. Lisa Crawford also needed the bus service for her children, even though she lived in the borough. It was tough to arrange a carpool the days she couldn't drive. Joe Peters' boys drove themselves to school so they could sleep in a little later, but he liked the door to door service of years ago.

The current system, with two buses making the four stops, meant a 35 minute ride for the first student to board. The upfront outlay to the school district was $12,456. Alternate plans included four buses running door to door, for a 30 minute maximum ride, at $23,778; or two buses door to door and a 50-minute ride, for $16, 722. Business manager Richard Lipella said the state would reimburse 40 to 50 percent of those costs.

The board deliberated the choices. Mike Shindle said after school music would eliminate the problem, since the secondary students could ride home with the elementary students, but parents didn't support that in the past. It had hampered participation in after school clubs. High school principal Ed Rife and superintendent Gregory Hoover said holding class during the regular day also caused problems with enrollment in traditional courses because of block scheduling.

Brian Hissong didn't like the term 'penalized' used by one parent on how music students were treated. He thought band and chorus were opportunities and privileges, and any fix this year would only be a bandaid. He wanted the budget and schedule examined for next year, and then students could make the decision if they wanted to sign up for the early morning sessions. Joel Fridgen asked where the extra money would come from.

"We're in the hole," said Lipella. "I have no money to cover it. It can come out of the fund balance. This year the deficit is probably larger than last year."

Eric Holtzman said the cost was quite small compared to the service provided.

A Holtzman/Paul Politis motion to change the route to four buses picking up students at their doors passed 5-3, with Kristy Faulkner, Fridgen and Hissong also in favor. Howard Ritchey, Shindle and William Thorne opposed.

Peters was happy with the vote. His sons would continue to drive, but he thought maybe other families would now sign up for their kids to ride the bus. "It's positive for the students and the program."

Security assessment

Jason Gerhart, a civil engineer working for William H. Gordon Associates in Charles Town, W. Va., explained the results of a complimentary security assessment his company did at the elementary school last November. If the school board found the analysis valuable, they were willing to come back and review the entire campus on a contracted basis.

He said the school should have a clear evacution plan if there was ever a major incident on I-81, signage could help reduce wandering on campus by people who weren't sure where to go, the playground could have more restricted access, a security master plan should be created and updated every three to five years, and the emergency management plan could be more detailed.

Gerhart liked the elementary school visitor system. "It's one of the more robust we've seen."

However, he had already alerted staff that visitors in the administration wing could easily enter the elementary halls. Consequently, that access had been tightened.

Hoover said the district would first consider an emergency management plan, getting a quote for the entire district.