School Superintendent Tom O’Toole addressed the school board about changes that have been made to the district’s transportation plan.
At the school board meeting, Monday, Sept. 22, O’Toole addressed the issue of transporting four-year-old kindergarten students, which was brought up at the last meeting. He said busing of four-year-olds is not mandatory unless a student lives outside a two mile range.
He said according to the contract the district has with Lamers, the bus driver and the bus company must handle all of the student transports once they are on the bus. That includes making sure students are buckled in their seat, unbuckled when needed, and transporting the students.
“That’s an expectation we have and that we have affirmed with Lamers this year as well, it’s their responsibility,” O’Toole said.
Board president Dirk Weber asked O’Toole if the bus drivers are comfortable with that responsibility.
“That I don’t know, that would be up to Lamers,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole reiterated that it is in the bus contract that the bus drivers are responsible for that.
The busing of 3-K students was also addressed. O’Toole said 3-K busing is not required, and the district does not have a 3-K program. He said the 3-K busing provided by Lamers was an extra service provided to three students at St. Rose St. Mary’s Elementary School.
O’Toole told the board he spoke with a Lamers representative about busing 3-K students and was told it is something the company just did. He said he told Lamers that won’t be happening next year, and that he would bring to the school board to see if it wanted to stop this practice immediately.
“We do not have to transport three-year-olds, it’s not required by the state at all,” O’Toole said.
Options to consider would be Lamers charging St. Rose or the Clintonville School District charging St. Rose.
O’Toole told the board he wasn’t comfortable stopping that service now, during the school year.
Pat Schley asked if there has been communication with St. Rose representatives.
O’Toole said not yet.
“They were just getting on the bus at the same time the four-year-olds are so it’s not like there was a special trip there to get their three-year-olds, but there have been special accommodations made in the route where those three-year-olds live.”
Board member Jim Dins said it shouldn’t happen next year, and that the board should consider notifying St. Rose that it has 30 days to find alternative transportation for its three-year-olds.
O’Toole said the board couldn’t take action immediately because it wasn’t an action item on the agenda for the meeting. He said it can be added to the agenda of the next board meeting.
Board member Jim Schultz said he didn’t feel right ending the service during a school year.
“Parents have troubles working jobs and meeting kids. We want to make this school welcoming and they’re going to find a way to send those kids somewhere else for the rest of their career through high school if we make them mad,” Schultz said.
Busing of special education students was also addressed.
O’Toole said the student’s Individual Education Plan determined if a student needed special help on the bus.
“Just because a student is special education doesn’t mean they require specialized transportation,” O’Toole said.
That decision is made by the IEP team which includes the student’s parents, O’Toole said.
He added that the number of PARRAs on buses has been reduced because the IEPs don’t require them.
“We have made a conscious decision to use the PARRAs in classrooms more than on buses,” O’Toole said.
O’Toole said the district is following the law when it is mandated in the IEP.
Student drop off and pick-up changes at Rexford/Longfellow was also discussed.
O’Toole said the reason for the changes was for student safety. He said the back parking lot where the students were picked up and dropped off previously was dangerous. Students would dart in and out between cars, and cars would weave in and out.
Parents are also not allowed in the building as early as they have been in the past. He said in the past some parents would show up as early as 2:30 p.m. for their child who wasn’t released until 3:10 p.m.
Pick-up and drop off now takes place on Clinton Avenue by the main office and on Eighth Street.
“The first day wasn’t great,” O’Toole said.
He said it has gotten better each day since.
He pointed out that the school releases 430 students each day and within 20 minutes they are gone, picked up by buses or their parents.
After the changes were made, O’Toole said he received a call from a neighbor of the school who told him the new traffic pattern was much safer.