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New school year brings big changes

Cuts include busing, swim team

August 17, 2011
By J.T. Whitehouse
Poland students will be looking at several changes in the 2011-12 school year that will be starting in just a few weeks. Most of the changes will be due to the message the school board got from taxpayers.

The first big change students will see in September involves start and finish times. The elementary buildings, Dobbins, North and Poland Union, will be starting class at 8:20 a.m. and finishing at 2:30 p.m. McKinley grades 5 and 6 and Poland Middle School grades 7 and 8 will start at 8:35 a.m. and finish at 3:12 p.m. Poland High School will begin at 7:55 a.m. and let out at 3:03 p.m. According to Superintendent Dr. Robert Zorn, it all has to do with busing.

“We have 800 students at Poland Seminary High School,” Dr. Zorn said. “Yet only 72 rode the bus.”

He said when the new school levy was voted down a second time, it sent a clear message that taxpayers wanted to see the district cut back. Busing was one area that was looked at. Under Ohio law, school districts are not required to bus high school students. To transport the 72 students costs roughly $300,000, so that cut was an obvious one.

Zorn said the board didn’t want to leave parents without any options, however, so the board found Transit Services out of Struthers.

“If parents want to pay a private bus company to transport their high school students, they are on their own,” Zorn said.

The board permitted the transit company to hand out a flier during orientation and parents were free to explore the option. As for the price, the Transit Services company would not give one. Zorn said the number of riders, the route and the length of time would all be factors in the end price of the service. The information from the company will be available for freshmen when they attend orientation on Thursday between 1 and 2:30 p.m. at the high school. Upperclassmen will get the information when they pick up their schedules between 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, also at the high school.

Besides the change in busing, all students will be affected by a small increase in cafeteria prices. Prices for the coming school year will be set at $2.50 for high school, $2.25 for grades 5 to 8, and $2 for kindergarten through 4. Milk for students and adults at all grade levels will be 50 cents and adult lunches at all schools will be $2.50.

Zorn said the increase is small over last year, but cafeteria prices in Poland schools has not seen a rise in five years. One reason for the increase is the reduced and free lunches that require a base price minimum to be involved in the program.

In another cost-cutting measure, the Poland swim team is being cut. The Board of Education had a choice between eliminating a sport or forcing pay to play.

“We cut swimming and saved around $16,000,” said Zorn. “If all 400 Poland athletes were charged $50 under pay to play, it would be nearly the same.”

He said the board felt it would be better to drop one sport than make everyone pay to play.

Other changes the board made included layoffs and cutbacks for 60 of the district’s 300 employees, 24 bus drivers who lost all medical benefits and took a 25 percent wage reduction, and all employees in the district who agreed to a two-year wage freeze.

“The Board of Education did reserve the right to revisit the topic of pay to play in the future,” Zorn said.

With all the cuts made, the cancelled high school busing, the loss of the swim team and a variety of other cost cutting maneuvers, Zorn said $1,419,000 had been cut from the budget. He also stated a new levy issue will not be on the ballot in November. He said the board is waiting to see if taxpayers like the leaner school district.

“All the cuts won’t be felt until school starts, then we’ll see the impact,” he said.

As for the near future, and to go along with the high school orientation and schedule pick-up times, the middle school grade 7 and new students to grade 8 will take place at 6:45 p.m. Poland Middle School will be opened at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 31 for walkthroughs and locker set ups.

PMS eighth-grade students can pick up their schedules from 9 to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 24. PMS seventh-graders can pick their schedules up between 9 and 11 a.m. Thursday, Aug. 25.

At McKinley, orientation for all grade five and new students in grade six will take place between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31. Grade six students can pick up their schedules on Friday, Sept. 2 in the afternoon.

For elementary students, grade levels and classroom assignments will be posted on the entrance door to each school as of Friday afternoon, Sept. 2. New pupils grades one through four will have orientation at 9 a.m. Aug. 31 at the individual school. All kindergartners will hold orientation at their respective elementary building between 9 and 10:15 a.m. Aug. 31.



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