School boundary changes OK’d

As the Williamsport Area School District continues to go forward with a reconfiguration process – closing two schools and reassigning grades – the school board approved updated boundaries for the 2013-14 school year.

The board voted 5-2 Tuesday to approve boundaries, which included sending students in kindergarten through third grade living in the Linden area to Hepburn-Lycoming Primary School and students east of Memorial Park to Jackson Primary School.

After discussing the boundaries at previous meetings, board member Dr. Jane Penman raised a concern about Linden students passing Jackson on the way to Hepburn-Lycoming. The administration came back with the option of placing students in the Grimesville area in Hepburn-Lycoming, which would allow Linden students to attend Jackson.

The board then discussed moving students east of Memorial Park from Jackson to Hepburn-Lycoming.

During the board meeting, Richard McCusker, supervising manager of pupil transportation, said the switch of Linden and Memorial Park would affect about 84 students – 33 from Linden and 51 from the city.

The Memorial Park section now has 17 students at Jackson and four attending Hepburn-Lycoming. Linden has 12 students at both Jackson and Hepburn-Lycoming.

McCusker said neither option would have affected transportation costs.

Penman was disappointed that the district wasn’t able to more equally distribute its socioeconomically disadvantaged students, saying that the district had “one chance” to do so. If Linden students attended Jackson and Memorial Park students went to Hepburn-Lycoming, it would bring the two schools closer in terms of free and reduced lunches – although they still would be about 25 percent a part.

Board member Thomas Zimmerman said that no move would accomplish that because families move in and out of the district every year.

The district would use the state’s guidelines for walking boundaries – any student kindergarten through sixth grade living within 1.5 miles of the school would not be given school transportation.

City resident Scott Miller said its difficult walking that long of a distance with a kindergartener, especially “on the mornings when its 8 degrees.”

He suggested board members try walking a student that distance “just to get an idea of what you’re talking about.”