By Cindy Kranz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
MOUNT HEALTHY - The road to Mount Healthy High School was jammed with cars Monday morning and afternoon, with no familiar yellow buses in sight.
Monday was the first day that busing was cut for high school students living in the Mount Healthy City School District, including those who attend private schools. The district eliminated busing to save money after two operating levies were defeated by voters last year.
"We had a lot of tardiness (Monday) because our traffic was backed up with cars coming in," said principal Dave Kammerer. But all in all, he said, the first day went more smoothly than anticipated.
Assistant principals, teachers, the school resource officer and Mount Healthy police helped direct traffic on Adams Road and on school property. About 670 of the 950 students are usually bused.
Shelby Smith of Mount Healthy took the day off work because it was the first day without busing.
"It's terrible," she said as she waited after school for her daughter, Rianne, a 14-year-old freshman. "The traffic coming in here, she was late for school. The school is not set up for all this traffic."
Behind her in the car line was Alicia Ziegler, who was picking up her 14-year-old freshmen twins, Theron and Jeron.
"I work two jobs," she said. "It does interfere a lot, but somebody has to bring them and take them. I have to leave work. There's really no other choice. Either they let me, or I guess I would have to quit and find something else."
Attendance figures weren't available late Monday afternoon, but superintendent David Horine said mid- to late-week attendance might be a better reflection of the effect of no busing.
"I would not take (Monday) as any kind of indicator. On one hand, it could be up because it's the first day back after the holidays. On the other hand, it could be down because a lot of folks are still trying to find rides. I think there were folks still questioning whether this was going to happen or not."
To accommodate students and parents, the school is opening the building at 7 a.m., a half-hour earlier than usual. About 200 students gathered in the cafeteria before classes started at 7:50 a.m. Monday.
"We have so many kids getting dropped off really early because their parents are going to work. The kids started arriving about an hour before school," Mr. Kammerer said.
Students, however, will have to find a way home in the afternoon. The district does not plan to keep them there until parents can pick them up.
"It definitely is a hardship," Mr. Kammerer said. "I've talked to a number of parents who really are at a loss as to what to do. They are either from households where resources are very limited, and they don't have the means to get their children here. Or, their jobs simply have them away when they need to be transported.
"What you end up having is a lot of carpooling. We all have some serious safety concerns. We know we're sending carloads of kids out there. It's a little frightening right now," Mr. Kammerer said.
Students were not happy either as they stood outside shivering while waiting for their rides Monday.
"I think this is stupid," said Dominique Metcalf, a 14-year-old freshman. "It has to stop. We shouldn't be this broke."
James Sudberry, a 15-year-old freshman, said his dad has to get up an hour early to get him to school before he goes to work. And, his dad has to leave work to pick him up.
This isn't the first time busing has been cut in the 3,800-student district. After losing three levies in 1997, busing was cut in January 1998. It was restored after a levy passed a month later.
The Mount Healthy district is saving about $40,000 through the end of this school year by cutting busing. The district lost levies in August and November. It will try again Feb. 4.
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