No decisions announced at BP school board meeting

Published Feb 28, 2013 at 10:32 am (Updated Feb 28, 2013 at 1:31 pm)

Although Bethel Park School Board members say no decisions have been made concerning lowering the requirements for high school graduation or outsourcing student transportation, the audience at the Feb. 26 meeting was standing room only, with residents voicing concerns on both subjects.

“The aide and the driver make a difference,” said Michael Scott, the parent of a special needs student. “They determine how that child’s day starts. We want quality. Bethel Park drivers and aides provide quality.”

According the board President Donna Cook, the district has been in negotiations with the 85 members of the district transportation union since spring 2011. Cook said district officials, in an effort to save money, have asked for proposals from outside student transportation companies. The district has also given the union a chance to provide a bid, she said.

“There has been no decision to contract (with an outside company),” said Cook.

Many parents and drivers spoke of the strong relations between the drivers, aides and students and the trust that the parents have in the current employees.

“We have a vested interest,” said Helen Harding, a long-time driver and Bethel Park resident. Many of the drivers drove their own children and now are driving their grandchildren as well as the children of former students, she said.

“Sixty-five percent of us are living (in Bethel Park),” said Harding. “You are tearing and destroying the fabric of your own community.”

Parents and students also spoke passionately against lowering the number of credits required for graduation as well as the recently enacted policy changing the credit level for a semester of physical education from 1/4 credit to 1/2 credit. The change means students only have to take four semesters of physical education during their four years at the high school.

“I’ve always been taught that knowledge is power,” said John Mascarro, a senior at the high school. “We need more education, not less. I know that I have benefited from the current credit requirements.”

The district currently requires graduates to have completed at least 27 credits. The state minimum is 21 credits.

“At no time did we say we were lowering (the requirement) to 21,” said Cook. “We are discussing the possibility of reducing it by two or three (credits).

District officials have said the possible change will allow students time for internships and college courses as well as time to take remedial classes needed to pass the state-required graduation exam. Students would still be allowed to take more credits than the number needed for graduation.

Changes to the graduation requirements will be discussed at a curriculum committee meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. March 12.

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