IRSD board meeting

Indian River School District Board of Education member and IRSD staff discuss issues including transportation and afterschool activities.

The Indian River School District Policy Committee met last week at the Southern Delaware School for the Arts (SDSA) to consider a proposal by IRSD Superintendent Jay T. Owens to allow a return to campus and to sports practice, play rehearsal or band room even after inclement-weather closings.

“It is a consideration,” said Owens. “You close a school based on the timing of the storms. We can still host afterschool and extracurricular activities.”

He cited a recent dusting of snow that looked like a major winter icing at 5 a.m. in the morning when it was hitting the area last week, then melted quickly and did not pose an issue for schools by mid-day.

The procedural change would be made to the policy titled “Scheduling for Extra-curricular Activities During Inclement Weather.” The proposed reading of the procedure would state: “Should school be canceled, the entire school day, all extra-curricular activities shall require approval of the superintendent, after consult with the president of the Board of Education.”

The initial procedure would actually still involve a responsible adult, such as the coach, teacher or officer of an organization contacting the school principal and requesting permission to conduct an activity. The principal may deny the initial request if conditions are deemed unsafe. If the principal believes conditions are safe, he or she will then consult with the superintendent to determine if the activity may be held. Finally, Owens would confer with the president of the Board of Education (or a vice president, if necessary).

“So far, so good,” said Owens in response to a question of whether principals and teachers/coaches are for the new procedure. “The first point of contact is always the principal. I can make the call with board leadership once we know an event is going to happen.”

“Sometimes storms like these come and go, and we are in much better shape by the afternoon,” he said, even if school may have been closed early in the morning.

Bus schedule re-alignments proposed for 2022-2023 school year

The IRSD Policy Committee also heard an overview of the 2022-2023 school year Transportation Plan for students. Scheduling times are proposed to be brought into further alignment with neighboring school districts.

Further, the EEAB has done a traffic study and student population assessment in recommending new bus times that would also afford more teaching time in school.

“Our population is growing rapidly in our school district,” said Owens. “The board will take a look at our bus routes and come back with a recommendation in February,” he said.

“It aligns our elementary schools more consistently with each other,” he said. Additionally, “It allows the buses to make double runs where needed.”

The new proposed transportation plans create a change for Millsboro and Phillip Showell elementary school pick-up times to align with other elementary school bus times. The plan also allows more time for Sussex Central High School, and is an attempt to avoid overcrowding and traffic driving into Millsboro, with an earlier discharge at the schools.

“SDSA will get the same instructional time as other schools, and students will only be riding with other SDSA students. SDSA hereby gains three more buses,” notes the transportation plan.

Transportation planners said they believe this new idea will help the morning and afternoon traffic congestion in the district.

“There will be increased capacity for IRHS transportation that accounts for the largest afternoon dismissal. The transportation program adjustments lessen rushing for the drivers and approves ability for all buses to arrive before school begins.”

“Kids may be losing half an hour of instructional time because we have to get those buses around to get everyone,” said Shawn Tidwell, supervisor of transportation for IRSD. “We don’t want to push dismissal times to later. This [current routing] squeezes the time between routes and has made the time between first-run and second-run bus move too tightly. We are working with the union and the transportation company to make sure we are in compliance.”

“We are trying to get input from of staff on these transportation issues as well,” said Tidwell. “Parents may need to make new plans for morning childcare” if the two elementary schools move to an earlier pick-up.

“We are now more aligned with the other Sussex County school district times,” said Tidwell of the new plans. “It also matches up with the State.”

“We think this will help solve the problems we have had over the past three years,” added Owens. “We are trying to solve all of these problems, especially overcrowding.”

Staff Reporter

Mike has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern and is a 25-year member of the National Press Club. He has won four national writing awards for editorial work. He is a native of McLean, Va., and lives in Millville.