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Valley News Dispatch

Some Deer Lakes parents whose kids attend Beattie vo-tech school upset with later bus arrival

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2018, 6:36 p.m.

Some Deer Lakes parents whose children attend the A.W. Beattie Career Center say a change in the bus schedule is making their kids late every morning by 25 minutes.

A number of parents who packed the Deer Lakes School Board meeting Tuesday told school directors that the bus taking students — affectionately called the “Beattie bus” — has the students arriving 25 minutes after classes have started this year at the vocational-technical school in McCandless.

Resident Karen Zalus told the school board that the bus is arriving at A.W. Beattie at 8:10 a.m. Classes there begin at 7:45.

Zalus said that Deer Lakes parents and students were misled when told that A.W. Beattie would have rolling starting times. She said that students from other school districts arrive there before Deer Lakes students and first period classes start without them.

Zalus, who said she began driving her child to A.W. Beattie to make the 7:45 start time, said Deer Lakes students were late for an assembly on punctuality.

Deer Lakes has 74 students attending Beattie, district spokesman Jim Cromie said. Beattie also serves Avonworth, Fox Chapel, Hampton, North Allegheny, North Hills, Northgate, Pine-Richland and Shaler. Beattie provides a half-day program in morning and afternoon sessions.

A.W. Beattie delayed the start time for Deer Lakes students after Deer Lakes officials were concerned about some of their students catching the “Beattie bus” as early as 5:30 a.m.

“It’s students standing out in the dark at 5:30 that is our concern,” said Deer Lakes School Board President William Lupone. “Safety of our students is the number one concern.”

Cromie said that was happening because Deer Lakes is large — 41 square miles — and is farther away from Beattie than any other member district. Students are bused to Deer Lakes High School, then go from there to Beattie.

Deer Lakes students now leave their high school for Beattie 40 minutes later.

Previously, Deer Lakes students got to their high school at 6:50 a.m. The bus left for Beattie at 7 a.m. and arrived there at 7:25-to-7:30 a.m., Cromie said. Now, the students get to their high school at 7:30 a.m. The bus leaves at 7:40 a.m. and they arrive at Beattie at 8:05-to-8:10 a.m.

Because the member school districts have different schedules, Beattie has staggered start and dismissal times, Cromie said.

Cromie said Beattie officials told Deer Lakes there would not be a problem as long as their students arrive no later than 8:10 a.m.

Students are able to make up anything they miss at the start of the day throughout the time they’re there each day, he said.

Fox Chapel Area students attend Beattie in the afternoon, district spokeswoman Bonnie Berzonski said. Fox Chapel students leave their school by 11:30 a.m. and arrive at Beattie by noon; they get picked up to go home at 2:20 p.m., she said.

Deer Lakes asked about switching to the afternoon session, but space is an issue, Cromie said.

“We’re open to any possible solution,” he said.

Some Deer Lakes students old enough drove themselves directly to Beattie to avoid getting on the bus very early in the morning.

But Deer Lakes decided earlier this year to not allow that starting in this school year because of complaints about students speeding and driving recklessly.

Student Bill Bailey said he took an online survey of students who purportedly all said “the 5:30 start was OK.”

Bailey also said students should be able to drive, acknowledging that some students in the past “caused problems” but said have now graduated.

Students are allowed to drive to the high school and take a bus to Beattie, which nine are doing, Cromie said. One student has been allowed to drive directly to Beattie.

High school Principal Patrick Baughman said the administration is “actively monitoring the situation.”

“Our kids have done phenomenally well at Beattie,” Baughman said. “We want to make sure the kids get the education they need.”

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Brian at brittmeyer@tribweb.com or 724-226-4701.

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