Monday, December 18, 2000

Talawanda might alter schedule

Schools seek to reduce bus costs

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        OXFORD — Changing the starting and ending times of classes in some Talawanda elementary schools could save $100,000 to $150,000 in busing costs without eliminating high school transportation.

        It is a proposal recommended to the Talawanda Board of Education this summer by the Ohio Department of Education after it studied the district's transportation system.

        Changing the times when elementary schools start and end along with changing routing from a two-tier system — buses pick up middle/high school students, then elementary — to a three-tier system would put fewer buses on the road, said Superintendent Susan Cobb.

        Eliminating high school busing altogether would save even more money but is not something the board of education wants to pursue, said William Vollmer, board president.

        “We've got the money to continue operations as they are now, but if the potential is there to save money, I think we've got to look at it,” Mr. Vollmer said.

        This year, the board cut $600,000 from the budget after voters twice rejected levies at the polls.

        A 6.5-mill levy approved last month is expected to bring $2.86 million to district coffers annually.

        Even so, not all cuts will be reinstated and the district is still on a tight budget, said Treasurer James Rowan. That's why the board has asked Laidlaw Transit, which has provided bus service in the 140-square-mile district since 1994, to prepare a plan based on the state study.

        It will include proposed starting and ending times for schools, lengths of bus rides, dollars saved and pickup/drop-off times for the new routes.

        The plan will be discussed during a Jan. 16, board of education meeting scheduled for 7 p.m., at Talawanda Middle School.

        “We think it is very operable,” Superintendent Cobb said. “We have to be sensitive to the fact that we wouldn't need as many drivers and those remaining drivers would have to work longer hours.”

        Under the current system, 32 buses are on the road plus three routes for children enrolled in special education programs, said James Rowan, Talawanda's treasurer.

        Bus rides for some children might lengthen if new routing using fewer buses is implemented, he said.

        Darrtown parent Danette Hickey said she wouldn't mind a change in school hours if it means the savings are put back into academic programs.

        “I am thrilled if they are able to put the extra dollars in academics. That's what important,” said Mrs. Hickey, who has two children at Maud Marshall Elementary and one at Talawanda Middle School. “Academics are the priority, and I think it would be a smart way to run the schools.”

        Should the board decide to move forward with whatever plan is selected, no changes would occur until the next school year, Mr. Vollmer said.

        He said parents would be informed next spring of any changes to allow plenty of time to make needed arrangements for their families.


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