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School Board seeking answers to more questions on bell times

By Bill ShortMillington Schools logo

The Millington School Board voted this week to send a letter to Shared Services for Transportation seeking answers to additional questions regarding school bell times.
Board members took the action Monday night during their regular monthly meeting on a motion offered by Vice Chairman Don Holsinger and seconded by Cody Childress.
The motion was passed by four affirmative votes, with board Chairman Greg Ritter and Louise Kennon absent.
Holsinger, who moderated the meeting, recalled that the board received information at its July 1 special meeting from Mike Simpson, chief of Operations for the Collierville School System, and David Brabender, regional manager for Durham School Services.
Simpson told the board that Shared Services is awaiting a “download” from PowerSchool, a student management system that serves all the municipal school districts. So, he said final figures are not yet available regarding projected enrollment, the number of buses required to transport the students or the actual bus routes.
Holsinger said the board was told that the final data is scheduled to be available tomorrow.
Simpson said Shared Services has estimated that 11 buses will be required for Millington Middle School and 10 for Millington Central High School. He also said approximately four Special Education buses will be needed for MCHS and two for Millington Middle.
Holsinger noted that the board was not given a projected number of buses required for Millington Elementary or E. A. Harrold Elementary schools.
Dr. David Roper, superintendent of Millington Municipal Schools, said at the board’s June 26 special meeting that he had been investigating the possibility of reducing the current three bell times to two. But because of the “logistics” of the bus routes, Durham has indicated that would require six more buses, at an additional cost of $300,000.
Holsinger said Monday night that, because of the absence of final student data, the $300,000 cost estimate is “not accurate.” He noted that the cost could actually be “more, less or nothing.”
Quoting from the letter, Holsinger said Shared Services “apparently” made a decision not to alter the existing bell times, so the change for the upcoming school year would be “kept at a minimum.”
Simpson said that, after the data is downloaded and evaluated so the buses can be routed, if Shared Services sees “efficiencies somewhere,” it will bring those to the attention of the superintendents, who can “share” that with their school boards.
Quoting again from the letter, Holsinger said that, because the Millington School Board understands the concept of “shared services,” it is not attempting to be treated in a “favorable” way that would cause ‘harm” to the other municipal school districts.
He said it also understands the importance of maintaining as much consistency as possible for the upcoming school year.
But he noted that all the board members were elected on the “promise” that they would attempt to achieve the “best possible educational opportunity” for all the students in the district.
MCHS and the Middle school are currently on a 7 a.m.-to-2 p.m. schedule, while Millington Elementary is 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and E. A. Harrold is 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. But the board is seeking to obtain an 8 a.m. start time for both elementary schools.
Holsinger said that, because of some of the “surrounding circumstances” that exist, the 9 a.m. bell time for E. A. Harrold is causing a “degraded educational learning environment” for the students and teachers at the school.
Again quoting from the letter, he said the board wants to know whether the planned bus routes can be “structured” in a way to “accommodate” an 8 a.m. bell time for E. A. Harrold during the upcoming school year.
“If it is feasible to accomplish this at no additional cost,” the letter stated, “can we be notified of its accomplishment? If it can be done, but would require some additional funding, can we be notified, so we can make a decision?”
If two bell times are not “feasible,” the letter asks Shared Services to explain what the “prohibiting reasons” are. It also requests that a cost analysis be conducted for the 2015-16 school year, with the results sent to the Millington school system’s Central Office.
During discussion shortly before the vote, Childress recalled that Simpson, Brabender and the board agreed on July 1 that they could “revisit” the issue in late September or early October, after the “numbers” on the bus routes are evaluated. He asked whether a change could possibly be made then.
“I believe the Central Office will revisit it,” Holsinger replied. “This is sort of laying the groundwork for the Central Office, so they know that we’re in support of this.”
During the portion of the meeting designated for public comments, E. A. Harrold Principal Mandy Compton thanked the board for its effort to help the school get an 8 a.m. start time.
“We’ve been a 9 a.m. school for so long,” she noted. “And in our opinion, no elementary school should start at 9 a.m., especially one with a tornado siren on top of it.”

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