Dallastown schools to end transportation to day cares
- The district sent a letter to day care centers notifying them of a new transportation fee.
- Beginning Jan. 2, the district will charge day care centers $2 per child or end transportation altogether.
- A small crowd of parents and day care providers stood outside the district's school board meeting Thursday to protest.
A number of upset parents attended the Dallastown school board meeting Thursday to voice concerns over a letter sent by the district to day care providers saying there would no longer be free transportation of students to the centers starting in January.
Day cares in Dallastown Area School District received a letter at the beginning of August stating that the district will no longer provide free transportation to and from day care centers. The letter, sent by Troy Fisher, the director of employee relations and administrative services for the district, cited a lack of funds to continue the practice.
Parents and day care workers said at the meeting they were angry at the last-minute nature of the letter, which states that centers have until Aug. 19 to let the district know if they will pay for the service or discontinue it. A payment of $2 per child per day is required for service to continue.
Melissa Rangel has a 6-year-old daughter who attends End of the Rainbow day care after school. Rangel was concerned about what the additional cost could mean for her and her family.
"Day care is expensive. School things are expensive," she said in an interview. "For one school year it's over $400, and they'll still make 20 different stops for other residents."
Many people pointed out in the public comments section during the board meeting that instead of dropping off 50 kids at one place, the district buses would need to drive farther and longer to drop off the same kids at individual stops.
"This saves the district a ton of stops because you don't have to make 50 different stops; you make one to the church that you're driving by anyway," said the Rev. Lawrence Cunnings, pastor of Christ Lutheran Church in Dallastown. "As far as I know, no parents received a letter, and the day cares certainly didn't have an opportunity to process what you intended."
The letter states that although the Pennsylvania School Code does require schools transport students, the district said they are "under no legal obligation to transport regular education students to and from a day care facility." The practice will be discontinued on Jan. 1, 2017, which is also the date that the fee will begin, school board president Kenneth Potter Jr. said at the meeting.
"This approach is a reasonable way for the district to offset the cost of providing a service that benefits your day care center," Fisher says in the letter. Potter reiterated that statement at the meeting, choosing to respond during the public comments section, which isn't typically done at school board meetings.
"There is an extra cost to go to these day care centers, and the fee was designed to be approximately offsetting to that cost," Potter said. "I do appreciate the professionalism and detail and thoughtfulness of everyone's comments."
Everyone who spoke on behalf of the day care centers Thursday said the cost would ultimately fall back on the parents that they serve.
Kallie Shutz, director for End of the Rainbow day care, said in an interview that she knows that several parents she works with are barely making it financially. She also mentioned that students who go to Red Lion schools won't have to pay the same fee, even though they also ride the bus to her day care.
"We can't afford it," Shutz said. "Ultimately, it will come back to the parents. Ultimately, it will be a tuition increase."
Rangel and Shutz both said before the meeting that they hoped the board would reconsider its decision to make the day cares pay for transportation, but Potter said the decision had been made in June, when the school budget was approved. He said the board would look at the decision but that he couldn't make any promises.
Superintendent Ronald Dyer said the reason the district made the decision now was so it could be considered before it was enacted in January.
"We want to work with the community organizations, but we also have to look at the impacts," he said.
Cunnings spoke again at the second public comment section of the meeting and urged the school board to include residents on similar decisions in the future.
"There are children who will be negatively affected if and when this plan goes into effect," he said. "There are ways to come up with alternative solutions when the people making the decisions include the people about whom the decisions are being made."
Other community members who spoke, including Lisa Hall, said the decision could affect the future of the board.
"Where you all stand on this very critical matter will be remembered by many come Election Day," Hall said.