Lakota cuts busing as part of $10.2 million reduction plan
Faced with a budget shortfall, the Lakota Board of Education was forced to trim $10.2 million from its operating budget for the 2011-2012 school year. The most discussed cut was the district’s decision to move to state minimum transportation.
The decision left about 40 percent of Lakota’s students without busing and will save the school district approximately $2.8 million this school year.
Lakota to try to improve infrastructure around schools
For the third time in the past 18 month, Lakota officials and supporters had a proposed school levy fail at the polls. Due to the failure, the school district is looking to slash $9 million from its operating budget for the 2012-2013 school year.
If the levy had passed, it was not certain if school officials were considering bringing back busing. Now, with the failure, Lakota is moving forward with infrastructure projects to improve access to its schools.
“Any little chance we get to look at opportunities to make it better, we will do that because right now we know that busing will not come back any time soon due to the failure of the last levy,” said Chris Passarge, Lakota executive director of business operations.
Lakota has already had funding approved for sidewalks around Freedom Elementary and Lakota Ridge Junior schools, according to Passarge. The project is expected to go to bid in the summer of 2012 and could be finished in December of 2012.
Overall, Passarge has identified a total of nine schools including Freedom and Ridge that need more sidewalks and/or bike paths that promote walking and biking to school in a safe manner.
“It is a long-term plan to improve areas in and around schools,” Passarge said. “It is not going to fix a lot of the issues we have right now, but we are starting to chip away at it piece by piece. And, if things ever change we will have better walking areas to and from schools.”
The school district plans to chip away at its long-term plan by applying for a matching grant each year through the Ohio Department of Transportation for $500,000.
“Freedom and Ridge were the first two selected because if you look at that area, there is a lot of infrastructure in place around the neighborhoods but it stops when you get close to school grounds,” Passarge said.
Other schools identified by Passarge in need of improvements include Woodland, Adena, Heritage, Cherokee and Hopewell elementary schools, as well as Liberty and Hopewell junior schools.
Parents find alternative way to get children to school
Parents who were not comfortable with their children walking to school either had to drop the kids off themselves, join car pools or pay for a private busing service.
Just prior to the school year, Lakota graduate and former NFL player Troy Evans created a private busing service called LBS Busing after his brother and sister-in-law told him that they didn’t know how they were going to get their three children to three different Lakota schools.
On the first day of school, Aug. 25, LBS Busing failed to pick up some students and experienced lengthy delays.
After the rough start, Evans suspended service for the next three school days. Evans also suspended service indefinitely to Endeavor, Freedom, VanGorden, Hopewell and Woodland elementary schools, as well as all of the junior schools.
“We are in the process of bringing back Freedom Elementary and a couple of the junior schools,” Evans said. “We are just bringing them back slowly, making sure we are doing it right.
“We are not going to stop until every school is back up and running efficiently.”
One of the parents, Eric Kroger, whose children were not picked up from school that first day decided to keep the service and has been pleased with it since.
“We do still use the LBS busing, and it’s been perfect,” Kroger said. “Other than $110 a month, I notice no difference than when the school was providing transportation.”
Kroger also said that he would rather pay for busing then see more programs cut in the classroom.
“I realize that busing will not return if the community doesn’t pass a levy,” Kroger said. “However, assuming we do pass a levy, the priority should be to first restore the quality and breadth of the education.
“I would much rather keep paying for busing if the schools can use that money instead to pay and retain the best teachers, and restore the full curriculum and extra-curricular activities. The extra money per month for busing is nothing compared to the cost our kids will pay for an attenuated education.”
Evans said that his service is still allowing students to enroll for its service. He said that many parents are unaware that the service is currently available in their area and sign-up is still available. Enrollment must be done over the phone, by calling 513-847-1192.
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