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South Putnam reports decreased student loss

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

GREENCASTLE -- Although it appears South Putnam's student numbers will be down from last year, the rate at which the district is losing students is on the decrease.

South Putnam Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt told the school board at Monday night's meeting that preliminary numbers indicated enrollment in the district is down about 22 students from last year.

"Last year, we were down 47 students from the year before," Bernhardt said. "So we've cut that number about in half."

Bernhardt said declining student enrollment was something many public schools had been dealing with since the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
"The good news is, we have over 90 students enrolled in kindergarten this year, which is up from 75 last year," he said. "That's a positive sign. If we can keep that up in the future, our numbers will start going up."

Bernhardt explained that school funding was not based on yearly enrollment, but rather on three-year averages.

"I hope it continues so that we can stop that bleeding," he said.

Transportation director Chuck Shaffer also gave the board a report, calling the 2009-10 school year "very successful."

He said South Putnam bus drivers transported students over 330,000 miles last year "without serious incident."

The Indiana State Police conducted an inspection of South Putnam's buses on Aug. 6, and the district earned a 100 percent rating for the fourth consecutive year.

Fuel costs were down nearly $17,000 from the previous school year, and through route changes mileage was down over 12,000 miles for the year.

Seven new security camera systems were purchased for the department last year, replacing old systems that were "not dependable" and "vulnerable to failure," Shaffer said.

The new, two-camera systems are being integrated into South Putnam's bus fleet.

"It is a two-camera system, and every seat on the bus can be monitored, including the driver's seat," Shaffer said. "With assistance from the technology department, we are able to download any incident to the server and the appropriate principal can review the situation without having to retrieve a tape and view it through a VCR."

Shaffer also reported that a new federal mandate that will take effect in 2013 will require all school bus driver applicants to have 90 hours of training. Currently, prospective drivers at South Putnam get 23 to 35 hours of unpaid training.

"School corporations will certainly need to address the salary structure, and will need to pay drivers while they're being trained," Shaffer said. "It would be extremely difficult to generate interest from people to apply when they would be training for a job 90 hours without being paid," Shaffer said.

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