By DIANE M. BITTING
Special to the Advocate
The Elizabethtown school board and the district superintendent made some parents very happy by reversing a decision that would have limited bus transportation between child care centers and elementary schools in the Elizabethtown Area School District.
During her budget presentation at school board’s workshop meeting on Tuesday, March 12, Superintendent Michele Balliet recommended, and the board agreed, that the district continue busing students to and from licensed child care centers that are outside of a school’s attendance zone for at least another year, if not longer.
Previously, as part of redistricting plans, that transportation would have ended as of the 2019-2020 school year. (Transportation to child care centers within a school’s attendance zone, would continue.) Among those affected were clients of the Elizabethtown Child Care Center and U-Gro at Masonic Village. Some have attended recent board meetings and spoken about the issue.
Balliet said that, in the process of going through the budget, the district’s new transportation manager, John Miller, and the interim business manager Gwen Boltz, concluded that this transportation could be continued with little or no cost to the district.
The move didn’t require a board vote, but members indicated their approval. Balliet then addressed the parents in the audiencewho “shared their voice, shared your concerns, gave us the time and place with which to study this and work with us, thank you very much.” She then walked over and hugged a woman who had been moved to tears.
Board president Terry Seiders also thanked the parents for their patience.
“They had concerns, but they gave us time,” Seiders said. “I do appreciate the respectful way you that handled this entire situation.”
In the presentation on the proposed 2019-20 budget, Balliet said that predicted expenses are $66.5 million and predicted revenues, including a 2.9 percent tax increase, total $65.5 million, leaving a $1 million deficit. The administration will continue working to close the gap.
The board also heard more about the proposed facility dog program from three district staffers who have been looking into what’s involved.
If the board approves the program at the meeting on Tuesday, March 26, the district would be in line for a dog from United Disabilities Services that would be at the high school to help students with stress relief. Brandon Aukamp, a school nurse, would be the primary handler while the secondary handlers would be counselor Amy Robinson and Jennifer Fields, the home school visitor.
The board also agreed to vote on March 26 on a previously discussed proposal to renovate the lower level of the middle school for sixth-graders as well as the renovation of Rheems Elementary School.
Also at the March 26 meeting, the board will vote on a new one-year extension agreement with Greater Elizabethtown Area Recreation & Community Services, which includes a 3 percent payment to the district from revenues of the GEARS child care program held in district buildings.
Grounds director Adam Bergens told the board about a proposal from Brandt’s Farm Supply to provide a robotic mower for a trial on district fields in exchange for putting up a Brandt’s sign. Bergens said it might be a good solution for mowing around the new solar field, now being installed and expected to be completed by early June. Such a mower would cost between $3,000 and $4,000, he said.
Becky Reighard, a fourth-grade teacher at Bear Creek School, and four students made a presentation on using new technology in the classroom. Also, the board recognized Eagle Scout Connor Alspaugh, a ninth-grader, for his project making moveable coat racks for Bainbridge
During public comments, high school senior Sean Brown addressed the board regarding the cancelation of two concerts that Brown, a violinist, and another student were going to put on at the school to raise funds for a now-canceled student trip to the We the People national competition near Washington, D.C.
Brown still planned to hold the concerts, since they had been advertised, and said the concerts would be a “nonfundraiser” with no money collected for the trip. He said he learned seven hours before the doors were to open that it was canceled “without my consent and without my knowledge. I was the last person to find out that it was canceled, and I’m the one who’s performing it.”
He said that communication broke down somewhere, as he found out on Facebook. He added that this incident could be an opportunity to improve communication between the administration, students and teachers, saying that the teacher adviser was surprised.
District spokesman Troy Portser said afterward that the concerts were canceled because “there were goals to raise money for other projects,” which would have been inappropriate since it was marketed as a We the People fundraiser. Portser said the idea of raising funds for other class-related projects came from “other conversations” involving the club adviser.
“The communication breakdown wasn’t on us. The communications breakdown was on the adviser and his communication with his team,” Portser said.
This article has been updated to restore the dropped word “happy” in the first paragraph.