School officials in Quakertown last Thursday announced said they will not redistrict students for the 2014-15 school year. The decision was made based on parent consensus at a Feb. 6 community meeting.
That meeting was conducted between Superintendent Dr. Bill Harner, Board President Paul Stepanoff and nearly 90 parents who gave feedback on the controversial subject, many voicing their opposition to the move.
Redistricting was being considered for students of the district's two middle schools – Milford and Strayer – due to unbalanced classroom sizes. Although Strayer is a larger school, classes have five to eight fewer students than Milford, which has a large volume of students.
Harner said he will work with staff this summer to study student enrollment and class sizes, with consideration given to keeping neighborhoods together, socio-economic demographics and building capacities.
Officials said statistics from the Levi Bus Company, the district's transportation firm, will be reviewed to inform future decisions. Teaching staff at the two schools could also be adjusted to accommodate the number of students, Harner said.
Final options will be presented to the school board after working with community members, administrators said.
At the request of the community, Harner also presented the audience and board with transportation costs within the district.
"At the February 6th meeting a parent asked us how much we spend on transportation. The figure this year is approximately $3.99 million. Next year, with everything remaining equal, [board financial adviser] Bob Riegel projects the costs to be $4.12 million. This is over 4 percent of our budget," Harner explained.
Harner's plan is to look closely at the bus routes and identify efficiencies. The state does reimburse some of the transportation costs; about $1.4 million was reimbursed this school year, Riegel said.
In other business, Quakertown resident and wife of a district custodian, Ruth Barndt, addressed the board about the recently hired outsourcing company GCA. The company was hired to take over the responsibilities of custodial and cafeteria staff several months ago in an effort to save money; however, Barndt pointed out new employees of the company are not completing their assigned tasks.
"The outsource company is not cleaning. I've heard of one person being fired for drugs and another for alcohol. These people are representing our schools," Barndt said.
Barndt said her husband remains a custodian in the district, although he has taken a pay cut since GCA was brought in. She asked the board to look further into the reportedly inadequate services GCA is providing.
School board member Stephen Ripper said he met with Harner and representatives of GCA to talk about the discrepancies in services. Officials are giving GCA one month to improve or actions will be taken against the company.
Harner is also taking a closer look at start and end times for the middle schools and high school based on lost instructional time for students participating in athletics. Currently middle school starts at 7:10 a.m. and ends at 2:15 p.m., with high school being at 8 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.
With early dismissals for sporting events occurring for the Freshman Center around 1:35 p.m. and the high school at 1:45 p.m. lost hours of instruction can add up quickly. However, Harner notes there can be some degree of variation in times because of the location of the opposing districts.
Harner said he will work to provide the board with fact sheets about potential time changes in the next month or so.