Great start to the new year!

Posted on 09/05/2019

Good evening! I wanted to welcome you (back) to the new academic year in Quakertown Community School District. From everything I saw in building visits in all eight schools yesterday and from principal reports that I have received yesterday and today, it was a near-flawless first two days of school in regards to being ready for students. We did have a couple of minor glitches, but I do know that our teachers were ready for your child(ren) yesterday and were already into instruction only minutes into the new school year. I can tell you that teachers and support staff members have worked tirelessly to get their classrooms and buildings ready!

I would like to share a couple of things with you as background for the start of the new school year. The first is about transportation services provided by Levy School Bus Company, Inc. For the past two days, principals have reported back to us departure for home times for buses. Except for fewer than a handful of students who got on the wrong bus or didn’t get off their bus at the appropriate stop, bus schedules were within 10 minutes of expected route times. According to a chart provided to us by Levy, this year, 95 percent of QCSD regular education students will have travel time less than 30 minutes; for 75 percent of our students, it will be under 20 minutes. Every day, Levy will be transporting 4,800 students - public, private, public charter, and special education, to schools and centers across the district and region. This year, they have 58 buses contracted with QCSD across 362 unique routes. Also this year, every one of our Levy buses has its own audio communication system and GPS onboard. The communication system was tested out yesterday and we learned in only a few minutes where a student was. These two new safety measures were recommendations from the Community Safety Committee last year.

Our school district-wide enrollment numbers are about what we expected - down again approximately 75 students from last year. This is our sixth year of a significant decline in entering new student/primary years enrollment. There are myriad reasons for this continued decline, but mostly it’s lower birth rates in our sending municipalities. In addition to overall declining enrollment, we also have an increased mobility rate - students entering and leaving the district in the upper grades. For example, approximately 67 percent of the Class of 2019 started with us in 1st grade. Already, only 67 percent of the student body at the 6th Grade Center started with us in 1st grade. So we have nearly 600 new students in the district this year, with another couple hundred leaving.

Managing class sizes is always a priority for us! Six years ago, class sizes were the lowest in the high school and grew appreciably larger down into our elementary schools. We know through “best practices” that it should be the reverse. Across all of our elementary schools, we have been able to flip what we once had. Across the district on Day-2 (today), our building secretaries report class sizes as: Kindergarten 17.5 students to 1 teacher (17.5:1), 1st grade (19.8:1), 2nd grade (21.8:1), 3rd grade (22:1), 4th grade (23:1), and 5th grade (22.4:1). Overall elementary school class size average (21.3:1). This is down, on average, from more than 24:1 during 2013-14 academic year. And yes! Our new focus will be on middle school for class size.

Our theme this year, as a part of Superintendent Goals for 2019-20, is mental health. New positions have been added to our support services for students and families, we will be implementing some of the Community Safety Committee recommendations, and providing better access and information about the many services we have available and about various topics helpful to parents.

Another goal-related project is to create a community committee to study the high school start time issue, and provide recommendations to the school board by January. This committee is open to any parent who is interested in serving. Please e-mail my Administrative Assistant Heidi Johnson - hjohnson@qcsd.org - if you are interested in being a part of it. Starting in January, QCSD will begin its PDE required Comprehensive Planning process, and will be seeking volunteers representing the business, parent, and teacher stakeholder groups (among others.) The Comprehensive Planning process will also include a community survey to provide input to guide our work for the three-year period beginning in 2020-21. Please consider taking advantage of these opportunities for community involvement and participation.

Thank you for reading. Please share your feedback, concerns or thoughts with the Board or me.

Have a good evening!

Bill Harner
Superintendent

Email: wharner@qcsd.org
Twitter: @billharner
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