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Starting Jan. 1, the Elk Lake School District will begin restricting the use of bus notes, superintendent Kenneth Cuomo announced at last week’s school board meeting.

The move, Cuomo said, is designed to lessen the load on the district’s administrative staff and free school officials to instead focus on the safety of its 1,172 students. Parents will receive more information on planned changes before the new rules come into effect and those new rules may be subject to change at a later date, he said.

Cuomo said that parents shouldn’t panic out of fear they won’t be able to retrieve their kids because of work schedules or transportation issues. The district has no plans to alter its bus notes policy regarding students going to alternative family or relative addresses for after school hours.

“We understand emergencies happen,” Cuomo said. “We understand they go to babysitters or Mom or Dad can’t get home so they go to grandmother’s house,” he said.

“We’re not changing any of that stuff,” Cuomo emphasized. “What we’re trying to change is unnecessary activities that we are incurring extra responsibility for on our office staff and our administrative staff.”

Cuomo explained that the district will no longer approve bus notes for parties, group athletic practices or other events like scouts, “anything like that or any other non-guardian, parental control issue reason which are next to impossible to try and govern and to control.”

“It’s an attempt to try and really make the bus notes what they’re supposed to be for - emergency purposes- and to relieve a lot of extra work on our staff,” he said.

“You may think we’re going too far with this, but I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction because it protects the safety of our students and that’s our main job,” said board member Arden Tewksbury, who was newly selected as the board’s president at the Wednesday, Dec. 4, reorganization meeting.

Under another arrangement also slated to take effect Jan. 1, 2020, board members approved an agreement with Creditech for cafeteria debt collection and resolution.

According to the agreement approved by the board, the system will be used for any students whose lunch accounts hit negative $50 or more. Those in arrears of more than $50 on their cafeteria bills will be forced to pay an 18 percent fee on top of what is owed the district.

The district will still be required to make contact with parents by phone, e-mail or letter and information on the student’s account will also be available with the student’s report cards through the district’s online portal. Besides getting their student’s grades, parents can also use the online portal to put money in a student’s account as well as get notification of low balances.

“So there are many different ways in which parents will be notified through this process before it, hopefully, it doesn’t get to moving to a collection agency,” district superintendent Cuomo said. The agreement is planned to run through June 30, 2021.

In other business, the board:

*Elected Donica McGee as Vice President. Members thanked outgoing president Anne Teel for her service.

*Elementary school principal Marc Weisgold reported that the annual Mini Relay for Life in support of the American Cancer Society raised $23,676.

*Approved a new agreement with the district’s long term solicitor Sweet, Stevens, Katz & Williams effective July 1, 2020. “This is the sixth year in a row in which there has been no increase in their fees,” said Cuomo.