The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 11, 2014

Mifflinburg board delays staggered-busing vote

By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item

— MIFFLINBURG — There is no staggered busing yet in the Mifflinburg Area School District. The school board voted 9-0 Tuesday night to table the issue until it learns more about the proposal and addresses some parents’ concerns.

The board was expected to vote on the issue after several months of review and presentations.

A two-tier busing schedule would save Mifflinburg about $150,000 a year by using fewer buses to make the runs, Superintendent Dan Lichtel said.

Sixth- through 12th-grade students would be in buses by 6:45 a.m. and be in class from 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Lichtel said. Kindergarten through fifth-grade students would be in buses by 7:45 a.m. and be in class from 8:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Some parents have expressed concerns the later start time for younger students would leave those children at home alone waiting for the bus, while parents must leave for work and older siblings must catch their own buses.

It also disrupts some arrangements of older siblings riding the same bus as younger siblings for parents’ peace of mind.

“We’ve received letters from parents, and we’re looking for more information,” said director Dennis Keiser, who chairs the education committee. “There is good reasoning behind doing this (staggered scheduling), but we want to be sure.”

Lichtel said there would be an option for “early students” to arrive at school an hour ahead of time, which could keep older and younger siblings together. There also would be supervised child care and extended learning programs to make up gaps between home and school, he said.

Dawn Hufnagle, mother of a Mifflinburg Area High School sophomore and a second-grader, was dubious of that.

“You know who’s going to end up paying for that child care? We are,” she said. Hufnagle spoke on behalf of six parents, asking the school board whether projected savings are assured given the district’s lack of reimbursement of PlanCon funding it’s owed by the state.

The school district does get a transportation reimbursement from the state every year, Lichtel said, and those funds are different than the monies owed the district for the high school project.

The school board also learned that Gov. Tom Corbett’s proposed budget would leave the district flat-funded for 2014-15, Business Manager Thomas Caruso said.

For instance, the school district would receive $7,527,920 in basic education funding under the governor’s proposal, a sum Caruso said is $1,505 less than Mifflinburg’s own projection of $7,529,425.

Special education funding in the governor’s proposal is $1,312,069, which is $56,241 less than Mifflinburg’s projected $1,368,310.

Mifflinburg stands to gain about $275,000 between accountability block grand funding and Corbett’s proposed “Ready to Learn” grant, which calls for districts with more students, more English language learners and higher concentrations of poverty to get a greater share of $240 million.

However, Caruso said there are strings attached to that funding, which is a one-time influx of cash, and no guarantee Mifflinburg would see any of it.

The district already has trouble with the Corbett administration as it enters its fourth year behind in PlanCon reimbursements for the $17 million high school renovation project. The state owes $1.1 million to Mifflinburg.