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Annual meeting will consider charge to bus some students

Those within two mile radius may pay to defray rising fuel costs

Mount Horeb Mail
Thursday, July 31, 2008
By michele kraft

With rising fuel prices weighing heavily on the Mount Horeb Area School District’s budget, the school board is discussing a plan they will present to the public at their Annual Meeting on August 4. The public is encouraged to attend this meeting and vote on the proposition, which would require the parents of students who live within a two-mile radius of their respective schools to pay an annual bussing fee of $25.00 per student.

Because of the high price of fuel, the school board is searching for ways to defray the expenses associated with bussing. The cost to provide transportation within the two- mile radius of each school per school year is currently estimated at $34.00 per student, according to a letter dated July 2008 from William Steinhauer, Director of Transportation. Steinhauer estimates the plan would affect about 900 students.  

Details of the plan include the automatic exclusion of families who qualify for the free/reduced lunch program, as well as families who live within designated hazardous areas. No family would be charged more than $50.00 per year, regardless of the number of students in the family.

State law requires that schools provide transportation to children who live outside of a school’s two-mile radius. Mount Horeb Area School District Policy currently requires children in grades 1-3 to walk to school if they live a quarter mile or less from their school, with grades 4-12 walking a half mile. All Kindergarteners are provided door-to-door transportation if an older sibling is not available to escort them to a designated bus stop. Further, students residing in designated hazardous zones are provided transportation regardless of the distance they live from the school. 

Exempt hazardous zones, for example, would include all students living in the Brookwood area. Because these students would be forced to cross county ID, a busy road, on foot, they would still be provided with bus transportation at no charge. Students in grades 1-5 living north of Highway ID and East of JG in the Vista Ridge subdivision, grades 1-8 living north of Highway ID and east of Michele Street would also be exempt. Full details of exempt areas will be presented at the Annual Meeting.   

Board president Ken Cole voiced concerns about safety. He felt that parents might not want to spend $25.00 a year for busing and this would force their children to walk to school.

“People aught not to be forced to pay for the safety of their children.” Cole said.

School board Vice President Scott Winner also noted concerns about safety, but feels there are many benefits to the plan besides relief from fuel prices. For example, families might consider the health benefits of their children walking to school. Life-long health issues are important enough to instigate finding solutions to the safety issues.

“I’ve said all along, one child being hurt or killed would mean all bussing no matter what the cost would be,” Winner said, “ the safety of the children is by far the first thing. However, we are bussing people as close as four or five blocks away who are on the same side of the street as the school, and they really should be walking. Plus, with the additional dollars [being spent on fuel], that is a full time teachers or two Para professionals that we can’t hire because of growing fuel prices. So let’s be safe, but let’s look at what we’re loosing by not charging twenty five dollars to the people who can afford it, and a lot of people can afford it.”

School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Anderson noted that in the 2007-2008 school year, $123,000.00 was spent on fuel alone. An additional $20,000.00 has been budgeted for the 2008-2009 school year, for a total of $143,000.00 for bus fuel.  Anderson believes it is important for the electorate to understand that all of the money now spent on fuel is money is no longer spent on education.

“As gas prices continue to climb, it takes a larger and larger portion of our budget.” Anderson said, “This past year, when gas prices continued to spike, we had built in[to the budget] for an increase, but they increased much faster, we had to appropriate $30,000 more just to pay for our fuel. So we built in another increase this year. As it gets more and more expensive, we thought it would be appropriate to bring this to the electorate. It was one thing when we were paying two dollars or less a gallon, but now when we’re paying over four dollars a gallon, since our busses run on diesel fuel, and that’s averaging about four and a half dollars a gallon, it makes sense to at least bring it to the electorate. It costs us well over four hundred dollars to fill up a school bus, and depending on its route, that may not last even one week. We own twenty-six busses. It’s a significant amount that we pay for fuel.”

All residents of the Mount Horeb Area School District are encouraged to attend the Annual Meeting, where their votes will be counted on equal parity with the members of the School Board. The meeting will be held August 4, at 8:00 in the High School Auditorium.

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