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Parochial school adjusts to meet bus schedule

| Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2005

A schedule adjustment has apparently resolved the dispute on busing parochial school students in the Franklin Regional School District.

Dr. Emery D'Arcangelo, Franklin Regional superintendent, said a resolution was reached after discussions between himself and Rick Liberto, the district's transportation director, and Msgr. Richard Curci, pastor of Mother of Sorrows parish in Murrysville, and Dr. Patricia Sheahan, principal at Mother of Sorrows School.

Parents of Mother of Sorrows students were angered when the Franklin Regional School Board and administration, in a move to reduce costs, eliminated separate busing that had been in effect for four years and instituted bus transfers for the students.

The parents were upset that elementary students would have to ride with older Franklin Regional Middle School students and that they would have to transfer buses at the middle school. Because of the bus transfer and the parochial students' unfamiliarity with the Franklin Regional school campuses, parents worried about the stress on their children and safety hazards.

"The bottom line is that we were fortunate that Mother of Sorrows School adjusted their times to an 8:45 a.m. start and 3:15 p.m. dismissal," D'Arcangelo said. "By doing that, we were able to be creative and eliminate transfers in the morning and, keeping the afternoon transfers the same, it met our needs."

Mother of Sorrows students began the year starting classes at 9 a.m. and leaving at 3:30 p.m.

D'Arcangelo said from the outset that the busing arrangement was fluid and pledged that Franklin Regional officials would work toward a solution. Initially, Mother of Sorrows parents threatened to take legal action against the district, claiming that the transportation for their children was not "identical" as required by law. But after receiving what he called "mixed messages" from some of the parents, D'Arcangelo said he and his team would only discuss the matter with Curci and Sheahan.

Curci could not be reached for comment last night.

Lloyd Wolf, a member of the Mother of Sorrows School Parent Transportation Committee, said the resolution was reached at the end of September and implemented Oct. 11.

"It is a shame that it took so long for the district to work with Mother of Sorrows School to develop and implement a bus transportation plan that gets our children to school on time and without the use of bus transfers," Wolfe said in a statement.

"But in the end, the Mother of Sorrows School Parent Transportation Committee is pleased with the new proposed bus plan for the morning commute for Mother of Sorrows School students, and we look forward to keeping this morning arrangement for many years to come."

D'Arcangelo credited Liberto with coming up with the resolution. He said by adjusting the times, Mother of Sorrows School created a window between students' arrival at middle school at 7:50 to 8 a.m. and when public school elementary students are picked up and dropped off at school by 9 a.m. That window allows the same buses to pick up and drop off Mother of Sorrows students in the morning. As a result, the district did not incur any additional transportation costs.

"After you do two runs, it doesn't matter whether you do three runs or four runs, it's the same cost," D'Arcangelo said. "I think the key is that at the same time we maintained our fiscal responsibility to the taxpayers."

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