Residents of Quakertown Community School District filled the majority of seats at the Jan. 10 school board meeting and were prepared to discuss a very pertinent issue - school safety.
A group of concerned parents led by Brett Bauz, presented the board with a petition and explanation of ongoing concerns at one of the district’s bus stops along Allentown Road and Streamview Way in Milford. Approximately 22 students load and unload at this particular location which is just outside of the Streamview development.
Bauz provided documentation of various incidents that have occurred at the bus stop based on witnessed events. These safety issues have occurred over the past two years with the majority being drivers speeding up to avoid stopping as the bus approaches with red lights flashing and stop sign extended.
Bauz also displayed a letter from a Pennsylvania State Trooper who recently cited a driver after failure to stop at the location and recommended the bus route be changed for safety reasons.
Bauz pleaded with school board officials by stating, “Our request is based entirely on the security and safety of our children, not convenience.”
The parents of Streamview requested the consideration by the school board to have the bus driver pull off of Allentown Road into the development to pick up and drop off children. Bauz described the adjustment as a .38 mile addition to the current route.
School Board President Bob Smith explained, “Unfortunately this is not as simple as diverting a bus into a development, it affects the whole district and all the bus stops.” School administrators argued the change could potentially increase transportation costs and, in turn, elevate taxes if other parents requested changes in bus stop locations.
“Would you be willing to have your children wake up 15 to 20 minutes earlier every day?” School board member Paul Stepanoff asked. A unanimous “yes” was answered by all parents in the audience with Bauz stating, “Absolutely yes, I would love to wake my kids up earlier every morning if it meant they were safe.”
School board officials agreed to further discuss the matter at a future date.
Dr. Lisa Andrejko, superintendent for the district, went on to discuss the need to re-vamp the security systems in all school buildings in light of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy in Connecticut. Administrators are working towards installing a buzzer type system to all school buildings as soon as possible.
Andrejko admits in 2008 a security test was completed on the schools in the district with recommendations provided; however, no changes were made at that time. School board member Paul Stepanoff replied, “I think we need to have a detailed discussion on all aspects of security in all schools of the district.” All board members were in agreement.
School board members also provided a first look at the 2013-14 draft budget of $96.8 million which is a 5.23 percent increase from last year. An increase in the budget will create a hike in taxes by 4.93 percent or $184 for the average homeowner. When translating to millage rates, the tax rate will increase by 6.98 mils. The current tax rate is 141.51 mils.
The finance committee for the school board is looking to minimize the tax increase to 3.09 percent which would mean an increase of 4.37 mills. School board president Bob Smith said, “Three percent is a better, more realistic number.”
Business administrator and treasurer for the school district, Bob Riegel, pointed out the budget is in the “pre-preliminary” stage and will fluctuate until the final vote in June 2013. A preliminary budget vote is scheduled for the Feb. 14 school board meeting.