The North Hills School District has released another set of questions and answers on how a proposal by Superintendent Dr. Patrick J. Mannarino to change the start and dismissal times of all schools in the district will impact various, district-wide programs.
Mannarino said in December that the plan would allow the district to streamline the district's transportation costs.
"These small time changes would allow the district to reduce the number of buses required to serve our students, saving up to nearly $417,870 yearly while preserving our quality educational programs," said Mannarino. "Basically, district buses would be utilized to their maximum potential with less down time between runs."
Proposed Time Changes
Sr. High (grades 9-12)
Jr. High (grades 7-8)
Highcliff/West View Elementary
Since the release of the proposal, several new questions have arisen.
What are the district’s plans for Accelerated Math currently offered to sixth-grade students?
District administration and building principals are in the process of updating the advanced math options for accelerated students. In the 2012-13 school year, North Hills District adopted the Math in Focus mathematics curriculum for K-2 students. In 2013-14 school year, Math in Focus will be rolled out to all elementary grades. By using a curriculum with a much higher rigor, the district is aligning itself much better with the PA Common Core State Standards. The curriculum follows the pedagogical framework developed by the Singapore Ministry of Education - emphasizing concept mastery, a concrete–pictorial–abstract approach, metacognitive reasoning and the use of model drawing to solve and justify problems. This is the same authentic Singapore math curriculum that has propelled Singapore students to international success. Math in Focus supports mathematical instruction at a variety of levels to target all learners from struggling to gifted. In today’s educational systems, it is necessary for each student to have a fundamental basis of mathematics in elementary school using differentiation in the classroom. Beyond the regular curricular resources, there are tools for the differentiation of the instruction including reteaching for struggling students by giving more exposure to concepts, extra practice for on-level students and enrichment challenges for advanced students. As we evaluated the results of the pilot program last year, we began to prepare for the need to further enrich some extra-high achieving students. Elementary schedules and flexible groups for these students will be accommodated in each elementary school as needed. These additions will alleviate the need for the Accelerated Math program with an understanding that accelerated math students will be targeted for Algebra I in seventh grade, which will allow them to progress to AP Calculus II - the highest level of math offered at the high school.
How will the district handle discipline on the buses that will carry elementary and middle school students?
The district will adhere to the bus safety information available in all student handbooks. Any inappropriate behavior on the bus will be subject to the progressive discipline procedure as stated in our student handbooks. All elementary and middle school students will be assigned seats in separate sections of the bus. Each bus driver will be provided with a seating chart in case of issues. All buses contain video equipment equipped with sound capabilities that is utilized at all times. As well, only West View and Highcliff students will ride with middle school students from their respective areas. The seventh-grade students remain the same ones that have just graduated from their respective elementary school and eighth-grade students are also only a short time removed from riding the same bus.
What are the other options for cuts?
At this time, budget planning has just begun. We realize that what each person is willing to cut or what others deem important will vary. North Hills School District officials have promoted the proposed changes as a way to cut costs without impacting academic programs, rectify potential safety risks on the secondary schools campus and create a true North Hills Middle School for seventh- and eighth-grade students.
What are the actual times students will be getting to their stops?
At this time, it is not possible to give exact times for each student. The transportation routes will be finalized as soon as possible. We realize and respect that families require this information to appropriately plan schedules, and we will do our best to provide it as soon as it is available. However, the average pickup time will be reflective of the new start and dismissal times in each school.
What hour will Morning Care open at all elementary schools?
Morning Care start time will not change. It will continue to begin at 7:30 a.m. in all elementary buildings. The cost of $3 per day, per child also will remain unchanged.
Will the district create an after school program similar to the Morning Care program as a minimal cost?
No. The district has partnered with the local YMCA program to provide those services to our families. The YMCA has relayed that they will be able to handle a possible influx of students.
How will field trips be affected?
In general, elementary and secondary field trips will need to operate between the last elementary dropoff time at 9:30 a.m. and senior high pickup time at 2 p.m. In limited instances or for overnight trips, the transportation company can schedule additional buses and drivers.
Is the district considering the new Highland Country Club development when making this plan?
Yes. Initial expectations from experts related to real estate development have indicated that impact on the district will not be as high as expected due to the type and size of homes planned for the area. We do not expect the new development to impact transportation in a way that will impede the proposed changes.
Can you switch elementary and secondary start times?
The proposed changes would not be possible under a schedule where elementary schools start before secondary schools.
What is the plan for student athletes if there is a lull or break between dismissal times and practice or start times?
The district is attempting to minimize the lull between dismissal times and practices or games much in the same way we have done for years. However, if a lull does exist, athletes will be encouraged to utilize the high school library, which will now be open until 4 p.m. to allow students extra time for homework, projects and other activities.
Parents will get their say before a final vote on the plan.
"We've established a task force of our PTA leadership that represents a cross section of North Hills school district parents," said Mannarino. "We're going to meet weekly through February so that if anything pops up we didn't think of, this group is going to try to iron through some of those problems."
If your child attends or attended, contact:
- McIntyre & Northway - Cindy McCarthy at email@example.com
- Ross - Janet Lukac at firstname.lastname@example.org
- West View - Chris Nolan at email@example.com
- Highcliff, Seville & Perrysville - Nicolette Lawry at firstname.lastname@example.org
In addition, the plan will be the subject of school board meetings in January and early February. Mannarino said a final decision would need to be made by Feb. 18 in order to give administrators time to implement it for the 2013-2014 school year.
For more information about the proposal, click here.
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