Seidenberger said ever since he has been superintendent, East Penn “has been very gracious” about what he called open enrollment -- allowing parents to take their children to other schools within the district if they provide their own transportation.
For example, he said the district gets many request from parents who want their children to attend Willow Lane Elementary, the district’s newest school, and Eyer Middle School.
But he announced that policy may change: “We may not be able to do that in the future. We may not be able to grant every wish like we have in the past.”
He indicated the district has to maintain a balance in class sizes and said that’s especially becoming a problem at the two middle schools. He said he would not be comfortable allowing “artificial high class sizes” at either Eyer or Lower Macungie middle schools.
He said he gets 60-70 such requests to change schools from parents every year. “We may not be able to say yes to all those next year.”
He questioned if one school has higher class sizes than another, “is it because the kids are in that sending area or because we’re allowing kids to go there?”
He told the board Wescosville and Shoemaker elementary schools have no empty classrooms available and Macungie has only one, but Alburtis has “lots of space.”
“Wescosville is the first place we’re going to look at.”
At Emmaus High School, some classes have 29-30 students, including an elective called personal financial management, an honors course in world studies and an advanced placement economics class. Seidenberger added a Latin 1 course has 32 students.
“We certainly don’t like to have class sizes as high as those,” he said, but added the district does not plan to expand the teaching staff at Emmaus High School in 2014.
New bus company?
The district has issued a request for proposals for a company to provide bus transportation to East Penn students.
Seidenberger said the administration met with representatives from nine interested companies. “We’re optimistic we may create a very competitive environment.”
He said a request for proposals is not the same as a public bid, so East Penn is not obligated to go with the lowest proposal it receives.
District officials indicated one of those interested companies is First Student, which now transports East Penn students.
The district has been with the same bus company for at least 25 years, according to Ballard, although its ownership and name have changed.
First Student formerly was called Laidlaw and before that it was Leibensperger Transportation.
East Penn is nearing the end of its five-year contract with First Student. Seidenberger said he hopes the new contract also will be for five years.
The superintendent expects the administration will make a recommendation to the school board sometime in February.
Special Ed costing $840,000 more than expected
Seidenberger told the board East Penn faces about $840,000 in unanticipated expenses for its special education program so far this school year.
Seidenberger said a major reason for the increase is more special education students are attending school in East Penn, although he could not say how many more.
“The students coming to our district this year seem to have a lot of profound needs. And we’re here to serve those needs. We’re doing our job.”
He said providing a nurse’s aide to ride with a student on a bus can cost close to $30,000.
He also said a couple of families have moved into the district with children “who will never come to school here but we have to provide services.”