By Mary Macedo
Neighb News Correspondent
The Fairhaven School Committee members sat smiling at their meeting on Wednesday, 6/8. With the end of the school year approaching, SC members expressed pride towards the success of this past year and continued discussing their plans for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.
The meeting opened with the introduction of the new principal of East Fairhaven Elementary School, Wendy Weidenfeller, who will begin her new position on July 1.
“I am so eager to serve the students and families in East Fairhaven,” said Ms. Weidenfeller.
Committee members said they were excited to have Ms. Weidenfeller join the faculty.
“She is a great addition to the team,” said SC chairperson Pamela Kuechler.
The conversation quickly moved to the graduation on 6/5. Student Representative Alyssa Botelho said the graduation went smoothly, and highlighted the achievements of this year’s graduates.
Ms. Botelho said the 2016 class graduated with many scholarships awarded, as well as awards in music, media, sports, and of course the cheerleading national championship.
After a lot of praise and congratulations for the class of 2016, the committee moved on to discuss the departure of School Department Business Manager Paul Kitchen.
Superintendent of Schools Robert Baldwin spoke about Mr. Kitchen’s hard work over the years, saying he will surely be missed.
The faculty and committee members spoke of Mr. Kitchen in high regards and said they were sad to see him go.
Assistant to the Superintendent Jody Tavares said that for the new school year, “the district will fill the roles and responsibilities of his position by re-structuring internally.”
The main topic of discussion towards the end of the meeting was planning for the new school year. The discussion mainly focused on the increased enrollment in the coming year.
“Enrollment has risen throughout the year and we expect it to continue to rise,” said Dr. Baldwin.
With that increase, one of the committee’s main concerns for the 2016-2017 school year was the Student Transportation Plan. The committee’s goal is to get students to and from school in the safest and most efficient way possible.
Dr. Baldwin expressed concern with ineligible students riding the bus to school when they should not be. He said that some ineligible students are getting dropped off at bus stops when they are not eligible to ride, which is causing overcrowded buses and bus drivers changing their routes.
The committee said for the coming year they need to make sure rules are set between the administration and the bus company and that they are strictly followed throughout the year.
Dr. Baldwin told the committee they are implementing a list of steps to determine the eligible and ineligible riders.
The first step was to email a survey to parents on where they live and how their children are getting to school. According to Dr. Baldwin these emails have already been sent out to parents.
The next step will be school secretaries calling students’ homes who have not answered the survey. The secretaries will ask parents the survey questions to help collect data on the eligibility of all student riders.
Dr. Baldwin said the information will help determine the most efficient bus routes for the new school year, as well as help to inform ineligible riders that they can no longer take the bus if they currently are riding.
He also said that once bus routes are finalized, letters will be sent home to students who are currently riding the bus who are ineligible, to inform them that they can no longer ride.
Committee member Stasia Powers voiced some concern with the overall radius of eligible riders and the side effects it may have on drop-off and pick-up traffic. She said that having more ineligible riders will cause more traffic than there already is at the schools for parents picking up their children. The committee members agreed with her concerns, but concluded that there was no way to avoid drop-off and pick-up traffic.
Some committee members were also concerned with students who have dual home situations or separated parents. Dr. Baldwin said that special situations would be handled by the principal of the specific student’s school on a case to case basis.
The committee agreed that the best way to handle next year’s student transportation was to look at the data they receive from the surveys and to change the bus routes accordingly.
The School Committee plans to finalize next year’s bus routes by June 17 and meet with the bus company around June 21 or June 22. The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for June 22nd when the committee will likely try to finalize some of the plans for the new school year.
“We are not waiting until September,” Dr. Baldwin said. “We are moving forward.”
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