WILMINGTON — Bus times remain something of a knotty problem for Wilmington City Schools (WCS) nine days into the new academic year.
As of Friday, Aug. 24 WCS had “three to four buses still not making the 9:15 bell time,” Curt Bone reported Monday to the school board.
Bone, who is WCS director of facilities, operations and business management, went on to add, “This is not a standard that is acceptable for us, so we’re still working with that.”
The plan, he said, is to “make some more adjustments to a couple routes” that will allow those buses to leave sooner which in turn will allow earlier progression to the elementary buildings.
One of those routes is the Martinsville route that travels the southwest corner of the district and covers the most mileage to pick up students, he said.
In the effort to correct the timing issues, WCS currently is moving some students to different bus routes to alleviate pressures on the later routes, said Bone.
As for afternoon dismissal, Bone said the challenge has been getting the southern-most routes to the elementary schools to get the children home on time. The three WCS elementary schools have later starting and dismissal times than do the WCS middle and high schools.
Currently being considered is whether to add another bus to the equation, Bone said. This would be in addition to the bus added over the summer when officials anticipated the problem could arise, he said.
Adding a bus helps speed up the return of buses to the elementaries for afternoon pickups.
While the first days of a school year are often the most difficult for the bus transportation system, this fall the launch of grade-level centers at the three WCS elementaries has involved “new procedures on buses going from building to building,” Bone said.
Grade-level centers group children together by grade level, rather than by geography.
During public participation, parents Laura Struve and Robert Irwin spoke about transportation matters.
Struve said she was asked to relay the concern of a parent who could not be at the meeting. That parent, she said, is concerned she is not receiving sufficient communications regarding changes that are being made in the bus transportation.
The parent who couldn’t attend also is concerned her children are getting to school late.
For her part, Struve asked the board what are the metrics for success of grade-level centers, given the trouble with bus transportation and a somewhat shortened elementary school day to start with.
Irwin, who lives north of Wilmington, said his children last year spent roughly 2½ hours of bus travel time over a week’s time; this year it’s about 7½ hours of time spent on the bus weekly.
They literally get home at dinnertime, he said.
Earlier in the meeting, Bone had said officials are aware of time issues on a northern route and are continuing to make adjustments to it. On Monday morning, a couple stops on the route were removed to shorten the time to return to town, he said.
Bone concluded his board report on transportation saying, “We’re not where we want to be, but we’ll be there shortly.”
Midway through his report, he stated that WCS is a very large district in terms of territory. It covers about 161 square miles, which he said is the 38th largest among the 615 school districts in Ohio.
In other news at school board:
• Former WCS superintendent Ron Sexton is middle school interim principal while Bert Martini is on a medical leave.
• Denver Place Elementary School Principal Courtney Karshner-Rethmel reported that as she walks around the grades 3-and-4 building she sees great things like small groups working and teachers building relationships with students.
The theme there is “To be the nice kid”. Author Bryan Skavnak encourages youth to “be the kid who can get along, who is generous, who is happy for other people, who does the right things. Be the nice kid.”
• Holmes Elementary School Principal Karen Long reported a German Shepherd dog that visits the school with its master “today escorted a second-grader into a classroom she had not gone into for quite some time now.”
• Wilmington Middle School Assistant Principal Brian Camp said more than 20 student volunteers from the seventh and eighth grades led incoming sixth-graders through what for them is a different building during an orientation event earlier this month.
• East End Elementary School Principal Jen Martin said the vision statements at her grades prekindergarten-and-5 school relate to community, diversity, success, and lifelong learners.
• The board approved an out-of-state field trip to Washington, D.C. for four to six WHS social studies students, in collaboration with Wilmington College. The trip is during the high school’s spring break.
• The board approved a continuing partnership with a Hamilton County Educational Service Center mathematics consultant. This year, the work will be with grades K through 5. A cost of $1,600 was cited. This professional development series will be funded out of Title 1 dollars.
• The board convened to an executive session “for the investigation of charges or complaints against an employee, official, or student.” No action was taken when the regular session later resumed.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.