Several dozen concerned parents from the rural areas of the Tussey Mountain School District appeared at the school board’s monthly work session Monday night to share worries about student safety and bus transportation issues.
Speaking for the large delegation of school district residents—many from the Trough Creek Valley, Little Valley, Enid and Round Knob areas—were Brittany Horton, Nick Miller, Arielle Neuder, Angie Gabrielson and Whitney Snyder. Much of their comments focused on concerns with the unusual number of hours many of the younger students spend on school buses five days a week.
One Todd parent told the school board that her 6-year-old child must get up around 6 a.m. to prepare to board the school bus and does not get back home until around 4:20 p.m., resulting in a 10-hour day, five days a week for the student.
Similar remarks were aired from other parents who said that such a long day and left little time for homework and family fellowship.
Another parent from the Enid Mountain/Round Knob area of Broad Top Township expressed serious concerns over the safety of district students riding school busses on dangerous, rural highways during wintertime. “There might be only a few inches of snow in Saxton, but on Enid Mountain, the roads can get very dangerous during bad winter weather,” noted one parent.
Another parent questioned the need for students to have to sit in busses for long periods of time in conflicting temperatures and weather conditions, adding that some youngsters are not able to cope with such conditions from a physical and emotional standpoint.
Another parent said that her child begged to not have to make the long ride from the rural part of the school district to the elementary school at Saxton, following the closing of the Robertsdale and Defiance Elementary Centers a few years ago.
Still other parents/spokespersons charged that the current timelines for picking up and discharging students was not realistic and encouraged school district officials and board members to make changes in the interest of student safety. “My children are getting home 30 minutes later than they did last year,” remarked another parent who also expressed concerns over apparent unsupervised waits outside the school in both good and bad weather conditions as well as having to travel with older, high school students, a situation that many parents disliked for several reasons.
“Sitting on a bus for long periods of time in all kinds of weather and having to wait outside the school unsupervised is not acceptable,” proclaimed another parent.
Also addressed were concerns over bus scheduling conflicts apparently sparked by the transportation of high school students to vocational classes in the Everett area as well as cost-saving measures instituted in the school district. “This should not be about saving money, it should be about the safety of our children,” declared another parent.
Several of the parents charged that telephone conversations with district Superintendent Dr. Gary Dawson about the bussing situation fell on deaf ears with at least one spokesperson calling for the resignation of the superintendent.
Dawson did not respond to the parents’ complaints during the meeting and was not immediately available for questions after the session. During a transportation meeting held prior to the start of the work session the superintendent told board members that some bus scheduling problems occurred but were being rectified.
Following the lengthy public forum held in the high school cafeteria, school board president James L. Hodge stated that the board “learned quite a bit” from the comments made by the parents, adding that the district transportation committee would be looking into the complaints.
Also present for Monday night’s workshop was Jack Jones of Broad Top City, an activist with the Junior High School Baseball team, who sought the board’s permission to allow the baseball team to utilize the baseball facilities at the Wood Township-owned J.A. Carney Athletic Field at Robertsdale for practice starting next spring.
Jones said that the use of the former Robertsdale High School football field is necessary because currently the athletes must share the Tussey high school baseball field with the varsity baseball team at East Saxton. The Wood Township Supervisors indicated last week that they did not oppose the use of the Robertsdale field.
Although the school district would not be responsible for the maintenance of the Robertsdale facility, Jones asked the district to pick up the cost for the one-time purchase of a set of bases and some infield mix necessary to prepare the baseball field for next spring’s baseball season. “But that work has to be completed this fall,” noted Jones.
The request was turned over to the district athletic committee for review as well as consulting with a Broad Top area girls softball team which also utilizes the Robertsdale facility.
When the board gathers next Monday night for its regular board session motions will be acted on regarding the hiring of four persons for school district positions, the acceptance of a resignation letter for the position of a part-time 21st Century high school aide and the approval of several volunteers for elementary wrestling.
At the end of the work session Hodge called for an executive session for personnel matters.
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