About 50 attend PRC school district info meeting on school bus, time changes

Published 2:45 am Sunday, May 6, 2012

Pearl River County school District Superintendent Alan Lumpkin told about 50 parents of students in the district that separating the elementary from the secondary students on school bus routes was what drove the school time changes.

Lumpkin said it would have cost the school more than $1 million extra to fund the split bus routes, just by adding buses, without the time changes. “It would have cost over $1 million to fund without the time changes,” said Lumpkin.

About 50 parents, seeking more information on the changes, attended a public information meeting Thursday evening at the high school cafeteria on the Pearl River Central High School campus.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

School officials had said they would hold an informational meeting on May 3 on the changes, after the five-member school board on April 10 unanimously passed changes that would separate elementary and secondary students on bus routes and change the times of the school day for all students

The changes at first prompted some resistance by some parents opposed to the changes, but during the Thursday evening meeting, everything went smoothly. Lumpkin explained the changes, why they were adopted, and then directed parents who needed more questions answered to booths manned by school administrators who answered specific questions by parents one-on-one.

Some of those attending Thursday’s meeting used the booths and talked to administrators after Lumpkin made a 30-minute presentation. Also on-hand, besides the administrators, were school board member Jeremy Weir and board president Jeff Jones.

School officials said they had expected opposition at first but said they had been told by other school districts that have implemented similar changes that any opposition would eventually die down after parents and students adjusted to, and understood better, what the changes would accomplish.

Lumpkin also told the group that moving the secondary morning opening times to later in the morning should improve secondary academic performances.

He said that has been proven by studies, and challenged parents to go on-line and read the studies compiled by educational researchers. However, in his challenge, Lumpkin did not specify any particular web sites where parents could find the studies. Simply Googling “studies showing secondary students do better when starting school later in the morning” turns up numerous sites purporting to contain such studies.

Lumpkin also said that district officials had conducted extensive investigations of other districts that had implemented similar programs before recommending it to the school board here.

He said almost 70 percent of districts in Mississippi the same size as the Pearl River County School District had implemented similar programs.

Concerning separation of the younger children from the older children on the bus routes, Lumpkin said, “We all have used a school bus at one time in our lives. I rode the bus to school, and we know of the rough talk and bullying that sometimes goes on in a bus. I have had parents tell me that since we have adopted this new bus policy, they are going to let their younger child ride the bus.”

School officials here at first were concerned about how many were in opposition to the new policy. On April 17, about 15 concerned parents joined in a meeting at Salem House on Mississippi Highway 43 South, which is actually east of Picayune. Lumpkin, along with three school board members and some district administrators, attended the meeting. Lumpkin told the group that he had received 10 telephone calls from parents opposing the proposals. The superintendent then called for parents at that meeting to give the proposed changes time to work.

Parents at the April 17 meeting said they were not sure how many opposed the changes, but said they believe there were more than showed up since others had told the group that sponsored the April 17 meeting that they had conflicts and couldn’t attend the meeting.

However, the Thursday informational meeting went smoothly, and parents were instructed to express any concerns in the one-on-one meetings with administrators, who could answer their questions and address their concerns, said Lumpkin.

One of the main problems with the changes involved elementary students arriving home without being accompanied by an older sibling, who, in some cases, baby-sits a younger brother or sister until their parents arrive home from work.

Lumpkin said that if a family needs assistance , and if an elementary student needed a sibling’s attention after school, the elementary student can be held over in a special supervised study hall and can then ride home with his older brother or sister, so they can arrive home at the same time.

That way the older sibling can baby-sit the younger brother or sister until the parents arrive home from work.

Lumpkin also said that the new bus schedules will eliminate having elementary students wait on the buses for an hour at the high school while the older students are still in class. Most elementary students will be taken straight home, except for those who have to wait in the study hall for an older sibling.

Lumpkin said the new bus routes will cut down on traffic congestion on U.S. Highway 11 at both the McNeill and Carriere campuses, and that in the long-run will save money.

The new changes will take effect with the start of school in August.

The new hours announced by Lumpkin on Thursday, which will take effect with the start of school in August, were for elementary students in kindergarten through 5th grade, 7:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., and PRC Middle and High School, or grades 6th through 12th, 8:20 a.m. to 3:50 p.m.