Transportation option for school consolidation plan selected

LIBERTY – The Southern Tioga School District Board selected a transportation option for next year, when North Penn High School will be closed, that though it costs more than this year’s plan, will save the district about $44,000 over another option and also keeps high school and elementary students from the same families in the same school’s towns.

Board President Stephen Guillaume said the option selected, one of two that were considered, changes the boundaries for elementary school attendance moreso than the other option did, but costs less.

“Arnot and Covington are impacted the most by the option, with more of Covington students attending Mansfield and more of Arnot attending Liberty,” he said.

Interim district Superintendent Sam Rotella said “the numbers could change, but option one would have cost the district $380,319, and option two $336,923, a savings of $43,396.”

Rotella further explained the routing that comes with option two.

“Students who live on Route 660 to down along old Route 15 into Blossburg would attend Blossburg Elementary School where they currently attend, impacting about 50 students, and students who live to the east and west of that corridor, about 20, would be Mansfield and W.L. Miller students,” he said.

School totals, depending on final enrollment in the fall, would be about 246 students at Blossburg Elementary, 236 at Liberty Elementary and 507 at Miller Elementary, well within school capacities, he added.

There would be no difference in the number of students attending Mansfield and Liberty high schools. With either option, Mansfield has 539 and Liberty has 279, depending on final fall enrollment.

Rotella noted that although some parents have put in requests for their children to attend one school or the other, he said he will not approve any until the board gives him some direction on how it would handle transfers.

“There will be public input considered before the decision is made,” he added.

Guillaume said the decision could be made as early as March 25 at a special board meeting.

“There will be discussion of school choice at the March 25 meeting at North Penn High School. If parents are willing to transport their kids, they may be allowed to attend the school of their choice,” he said.

If the board wants more time to review the requests and get more input from the public, the vote may be delayed until April, he added.

“People have communicated to me they think there should be school choice and then there are some that say there shouldn’t be. We need to allow the public to provide input and consider all options,” Guillaume said.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of special education Director Dr. Kelly Higgins, effective the end of the school year, with a leave of absence prior to that.

Rotella said the position will be advertised but for the near-term, a temporary director will be provided by Intermediate Unit 17.

As for the superintendent position, Rotella said the board likely will conduct an interview process during the summer, but his one-year memorandum of understanding runs until next February.

The board also:

Reinstated the position of district reorganization facilitator effective March 10 and approved William Schlosser for that position, retro-effective for Monday and through the end of the school year.

Employed Shannon Kovack as school psychologist for Mansfield schools beginning April 24 at $45,977 annually, to be prorated.

Awarded contracts for secured entrance projects at Liberty Elementary, Liberty High, Blossburg Elementary/North Penn High and W.L Miller Elementary schools, as recommended by the buildings and grounds committee, to Champion Builders, of Kingston, for general construction, $327,132; and B.K. Controls Inc., of Montoursville, for electrical construction, $52,500.

Authorized the business manager to lock in a price at point of delivery in the amount of $3.640 per 1,000 cubic feet with UGI Energy Services LLC, effective April 1 through March 2015.