In its first year under Superintendent Dr. Brad Breedlove’s leadership, Pender County Schools is facing a significant decision that is causing worry and discussion among members of the community, including parents and local businesses.
The school district is planning to change the bus routes from a two-tier system to a three-tier system. This change has implications that go beyond just adjusting the bell schedule. It could affect daily routines, local businesses, students’ school start times, and how long they have to wait for the bus. The community is concerned and wants more information, transparency, and a chance to voice their opinions – which is provided by a survey released by Pender County Schools.
There will be two town hall meetings to discuss the proposed changes.
New Superintendent and Proposed Changes
Under the leadership of first-year Superintendent Dr. Brad Breedlove, Pender County Schools is looking to change the county’s school bus route system, sparking significant concerns among parents, residents, and local businesses.
Some community members are questioning whether these changes are designed to enhance the new Superintendent’s reputation with staff, potentially overlooking the impact on parents and students.
The Push for a Three-Tier System
The Pender County Board of Education has been aggressive in communicating the proposed transition from a two-tier bus route system to a three-tier one.
Superintendent Breedlove’s video message outlines the benefits of the new system, such as creating stable job opportunities for bus drivers, enabling instructional assistants to spend more time in classrooms, and improving the overall school budget.
However, details on how these changes will affect students’ daily schedules have been notably scarce, leading to a wave of apprehension among community members.
Concealed Consequences: The “Bell Schedule” Changes
Despite branding these changes as simply “PCS bell schedule” adjustments, the shift to a three-tier system would cause significant alterations to the schedules of students and their family members.
Many believe that the Board of Education’s messaging campaign has minimized this critical detail, causing passionate debates among affected community members.
Voice Your Concern: Upcoming Town Hall Meetings
The Board of Education will host two public town hall meetings at Heide Trask High School on May 23, 2023, and Topsail High School on May 24, 2023. Both of these meetings will take place at 6PM in the respective schools’ auditoriums.
However, the messaging from the Board seems to be seeking “support” rather than “input,” suggesting to some residents that decisions may already be made without sufficient feedback from the public.
Residents are encouraged to attend these meetings to present their views and validate their concerns.
The Dark Side of Proposed Changes
Public concerns, primarily voiced on social media to this point, highlight the risks associated with the proposed changes.
Earlier schedules would likely require students to wait for buses in the early morning hours, often in the dark and at times, in poor weather. Coupled with the local bus services’ infamous reputation for delays, these changes have led to increased anxiety among parents and students alike.
Proposed “Bell Schedule” Changes and Their Impact
The new “PCS bell schedule” proposes different start times for elementary, middle, and high schools. The earliest schools would start at around 7 a.m. These changes would significantly disrupt morning routines that would also have a trickle-down impact on local businesses and other educational institutions (such as daycares and preschool centers), forcing them to adjust their operating times to accommodate the new schedules.
Again, a perceived lack of public input in these decisions has stirred discontent among parents, students, and small businesses in our communities.
Collaboration with NCDOT: Where’s The Data?
Pender County Schools has joined forces with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to research efficient routes for the proposed new system. While efficiency improvements were discussed in a recent School Board meeting, current efficiency ratings were not shared. This absence of data has raised further concerns among community members, further fueling the demand for transparency and public participation.
Call to Action: Speak Up, Topsail
Parents and residents of Pender County are strongly urged to raise their voices at the upcoming town hall meetings as well as to participate in the online PCS survey.
At the risk of generalizing, residents believe it is essential for the community to take an active part in the decision-making process, ensuring that their concerns are heard, and their needs are considered before allowing Pender County Schools to move forward with these changes.