Canon-Mac parents concerned about kindergarten busing

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CANONSBURG – Melissa Robinson’s twin sons will start kindergarten at First Street Elementary School this fall, but one unresolved detail has been worrying this working mother.


She doesn’t know how her children will get from school to day care.


Robinson, of Canonsburg, is one parent concerned with the lack of midday kindergarten busing in Canon-McMillan School District.


Robinson has been vocal at school board meetings and recently circulated a petition calling for midday busing, which was signed by about 40 parents.


The school district, which has seven elementary schools, offers half-day kindergarten programs in the morning and afternoon.


Kindergarten students ride the bus one way with students in grades one through six in either the morning or afternoon, depending on the program.


Both Robinson and her husband work full-time, and neither is able to pick up their children from kindergarten in the afternoon.


Robinson said some parents have used a taxi service to transport their children, and she may need to do the same.


“This is something I have been stressing over for the past year-and-a-half,” Robinson said. “When you realize that it’s time for your child to go to kindergarten, getting them transportation to the school that they’re required to go to is not a stress you should have.”


Midday busing for kindergarten students was last offered during the 2010-2011 school year, and the service was discontinued the following school year.


Matthew Harding, director of support services, said the district’s decision hinged on budget restrictions.


“It was the year that the state had all the budget cuts for education, and so that was one of the low-hanging fruit,” Harding said.


At the time, midday busing cost the district $192,600. Half-day kindergarten programs allow for fewer classrooms and teachers to be used, and each additional bus run poses an extra cost for the district.


Most districts in Washington County provide full-day kindergarten programs. Peters Township School District provides one-way busing for its half-day kindergarten programs, but also offers an extended day program to accommodate working parents.


Harding said Canon-McMillan is not considering reinstating midday busing, but administrators are looking at the bigger picture. The district recently rolled out a conceptual facilities plan that calls for the creation of one large elementary school to replace Muse Elementary. Cecil and First Street elementary schools also would be closed if the administration moves forward with the plan.


The project, estimated to cost close to $30 million, would construct a new K-4 school on the Muse Elementary site, with a target occupancy date of 2016. The building would include eight kindergarten classrooms, 26 regular classrooms and additional special needs classrooms.


Harding said providing full-day kindergarten is “definitely a goal for the district going forward.”


But for right now, parents wonder how they will transport their children to and from school. Rochele Reitlinger said her daughter was affected by redistricting, so a family member will have to drive her several miles farther to kindergarten.


The district approved a plan last month to move 50 elementary students, plus about 20 kindergarten students, to neighboring schools to curb the disproportionate overcrowding in some classrooms.


“I know we can’t take back the redistricting that they did, but considering now that she has to be picked up four miles away from the house vs. one mile away from the house, it’s more of a challenge for us,” Reitlinger said. “Midday busing is the least they can do if they’re not even providing full-day kindergarten.”


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