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School Board Asked for More Bus Service

A Bainbridge parent expressed concerns to the Elizabethtown school board about the Elizabethtown Area School District’s redistricting plans, which include eventually ending bus transportation to and from child care centers that are outside an elementary school’s attendance zone. With the re-opening of Bainbridge Elementary School this coming school year after a yearlong renovation, the district has been working on redistricting among the elementary schools, including an expanded boundary for Bainbridge and some reconfiguration for East High, Rheems and Mill Road elementary schools.

The redistricting plan calls for continuing bus transportationto and from child care providers — namely the Elizabethtown Child Care Center and U-GRO at Masonic Village — for this coming school year for all the elementary schools.

But starting in 2019-20, child care transportation would be limited to within a school’s attendance zone. The plan would also eliminate alternative building requests — when a child attends a school outside the attendance zone — starting that year.

Additionally, GEARS will offer before- and after-school child care in all the elementary schools, including Bainbridge, starting in 2019-20. Previously, GEARS has not offered child care in Bainbridge since Conoy Township doesn’t participate in GEARS.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, May 22, Andy Derr described how his son, now at East High, has “matured and blossomed” at the ECCC, and he “would not dream of removing him from there because the experience and relationships he has made are top-notch.”

Because the ECCC would be outside the Bainbridge attendance zone in 2019-20, “we feel that our family’s hand is now being forced,” Derr said. “This really singles out those who live in Bainbridge and have children who attend ECCC.”

Derr said his options would include finding another child care center, but he believes the one to be offered at Bainbridge would be “substandard.” Other options would be home-schooling, cyber schooling, moving or sending his children to private school, none of which he wants to do.

He asked the board reconsider the transportation for Bainbridge students who attend ECCC.

After the meeting, district spokesman Troy Portser said that alternative building requests, often used because of child care, are not offered by other districts in the area. This “school choice” program is being phased out in Elizabethtown because it is burdensome for the district in terms of transportation and uneven class sizes at the different schools. Also, it can’t be guaranteed from year to year, which is burdensome for parents.

Portser pointed out that with an alternative school arrangement, “parents are to transport their kids to school. They sign a form that states that. They are not to be making use of district-provided transportation.”

However, he added, over the years, “that’s gotten blurred” and those students have been allowed to use bus transportation.

In other business, the board approved a partnering with Market Street Sports Group to get sponsorships from area businesses to generate revenue. The sponsorships wouldinclude signage at district sports venues, such as the football stadium.

The board also agreed to hire Christel Pond as the acting assistant elementary school principal for the 201819 school year, extending the contract from this year.

In citizen comments, Robert Yahara talked about Pennsylvania being the only state that prohibits its teachers from wearing religious garb, such as a Star of David. He called such a ban is “disgraceful.” He said that allowing such garb would be appropriate, not to communicate religious doctrine, but “for students to be around people that are dressed differently and are civil and interact with others.”

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