The Coatesville Area school board said Nov. 11 hybrid instruction — a plan which incorporates virtual and classroom instruction — is on hold for now due to transportation problems.
“Our community’s outrage is justified,” Superintendent Tomas Hanna said in a statement to the community.
Last month the Coatesville school board voted in favor of a hybrid plan set to begin Monday, Nov. 9. That never happened. Parents were notified by phone around 9 p.m. Sunday that the district didn’t have enough bus drivers, so students returned to virtual instruction via Chromebook Monday morning.
In a remote Nov. 10 school board meeting that lasted for more than three hours, board members faced scathing, lengthy public criticism about both the last-minute cancellation, for which both Hanna and board members profusely apologized.
Hanna explained Coatesville’s transportation department delivered bus schedules to Krapf at least a week late. Also, complex pandemic scheduling and the shortage of bus drivers Krapf faces in the pandemic made transportation impossible. There simply weren’t enough drivers to handle Coatesville’s bus routes. The cash-strapped district also has 15 fewer buses this school year because in the spring it cut $750,000 from its transportation budget.
Numerous private and charter school parents — for whom the district by law must provide transportation —also attended the remote meeting to complain about new bus routes. Those students have been bused since August. When the district cut bus routes it enacted a shuttle system, busing non-Coatesville students to transportation hubs and then shuttling groups to schools like Pope John Paul II and Collegium Charter.
Some parents complained there is no supervision at the hubs, their elementary children are now forced to endure two-hour bus rides, and that some buses never showed to pick up children or left students waiting at school for hours. One parent said current conditions border on child abuse. Parents also complained about a lack of communication from the district’s transportation department about bus issues.
Hanna said a transportation consultant is now at Coatesville working on the problem, and the district will soon have a transportation hotline to solve daily problems. As for when students might be able to return to classes, the answer is “as soon as possible.”
Some angry parents accused board members of trying to punish charter school families, but board President Robert Fisher said the board believes all parents have the right to choose an appropriate education for their children.
“The problem is the funding formula,” Fisher said.
Hanna said 37.66% of the district’s 2019-20 budget goes to support charter schools. However, citing Collegium Charter School as one example, Hanna said the district must pay $34,000 to send a special education student to Collegium, but Collegium spends just $11,581 on that student.
The Coatesville board said the charter school funding formula hasn’t been changed for 23 years and is unfair because it results in drastic overpayments to charters.
Sending the issue up to the state legislature, Hanna and the school board identified payments to charter schools as the biggest source of pressure on the district’s budget and during the meeting unanimously passed a resolution calling for charter school funding reform.