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Deer Lakes School Board debates bus stop changes

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Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

A lack of flexibility in setting bus stops is troubling some members of the Deer Lakes School Board.

A new policy recently went into effect limiting students to getting on the bus at one place in the morning, and getting off the bus at one place in the afternoon.

Superintendent Janet Ciramella said that, except for emergencies, administrators have not been granting any exceptions to the rule for consistency.

At an agenda meeting on Tuesday, board member William Lupone Jr. said he does not understand why there is no flexibility in the policy when having flexibility was a point stressed by the school board.

For instance, if a student wants to get on a bus one morning two doors down from his or her regular stop, Lupone questioned what difference that would make.

“I hear about it all the time,” he said.

Limiting bus stops was proposed by Garry Dixson, director of buildings, grounds and transportation, in January. He said allowing students' stops to change daily was creating a “nightmare” situation where drivers had to remember a student's stops and children were sometimes confused about what bus they were supposed to ride, and where they were supposed to get off.

Honoring special stop requests were turning the district's buses into taxis, and increasing liability, Dixson said.

But as adopted by the board, Lupone said he believed the spirit of the policy would allow for administrators to accommodate “minor requests.” Ciramella said it has been an administrative decision to stick to one morning stop and one afternoon stop.

Board President Lisa Merlo said board members can bring up policy changes at any time, but suggested taking the issue to the board's policy committee.

Damaged bricks

What's causing cracks in the bricks at Deer Lakes Middle School is something district officials hope to find out.

Cracks have been found in a few locations around the school, board member Michael Coletta said. The cracks are not affecting the use of the school.

At the board's voting meeting on Monday, the board will vote on paying HHSDR Architects/Engineers up to $8,500 to assess the damaged brick and come up with a plan to fix it.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. in the high school library, 163 E. Union Road, West Deer.

In other business

• The end of refinancing savings will require the district to spend more money on its debt.

The board is expected to vote Monday on moving about $468,000 from its general fund to an assigned capital debt service reserve fund to cover an increase in debt service payments beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

Business Manager Denny Thimons said the district refinanced its debt in 2011 and chose to take the savings up-front over three years. Payments on the debt will return to what they were before, he said.

The district has about $63 million in debt, about $20 million of which was from renovating the high school, he said.

• The board will act on covering losses in the cafeteria.

The board will be asked to approve transferring about $170,000 from the general fund to the cafeteria fund.

The cafeteria had a loss of about $69,000 in 2011-12 and $101,000 in 2012-13.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or

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