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Bethel Park returns 1 after-school bus

| Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Bethel Park School District is bringing back an after-school bus service that previously was cut to save costs.

The school board voted, 8-1, on Tuesday to reinstate the Homework OverTime Team bus for Independence Middle School. The HOTT program is an after-school session that allows students to work on homework with teachers for 90 minutes, four days a week.

Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose said since the board cut the bus after the 2010-11 school year, participation at Independence has sharply declined. Forty students were in the program in 2010-11, compared to 18 this school year.

Rose said some students told her they were forced to opt out because of a lack of transportation. The district dropped all transportation for after-school programs after the 2010-11 year.

Some board members expressed concern about reinstating the HOTT bus.

President Donna Cook said in a meeting last week that cuts were made to keep the district's budget affordable, but ultimately she joined with seven other members to reinstate the bus for the rest of the year.

Administrators said the cost would be $3,500.

Board member Jim Means voted against the reinstating the bus, but said cost wasn't the issue. “We will be supporting one school with bus transportation and not another,” Means said.

Rose said participation in HOTT at Neil Armstrong Middle School has not waned as it has at Independence. Rose said Independence Principal David Muench felt so strongly about reinstating the bus, he agreed the $3,500 would be taken out of his school's budget.

The board will decide later whether to return the bus for 2014-15, based on participation after service returns and other factors.

Board member David Amaditz said he was comfortable reinstating this bus, and not ones for other activities, as it is for an academic program.

Also Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a 2014-15 preliminary budget of $79.8 million but didn't discuss a projected tax rate. A final budget will be considered in May or June.

Eric Eisert is a freelance writer.

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