Most schools axed them decades ago
By Scott Bellile
In a move to cut costs, the Hortonville School Board voted to eliminate after-school activity bus routes designed for students in extracurriculars on Monday, July 11.
The board passed the motion without discussion. During discussions at the June 27 meeting, Hortonville School Board Treasurer Craig Dreier said operating the three bus routes costs Hortonville Area School District $18,000 to $19,000 a year.
“Money-wise it’s difficult for me to support $18,000 for a limited number of students,” he said.
Activities Director Andy Kolosso told the board he’s never heard a student say his or her participation in an extracurricular activity depends on if the activity route runs. Kolosso said traditionally activity routes had ridership the first couple weeks, but then the students found rides with friends.
“We would be better spent utilizing those dollars to develop a network of parents that could offer to take the kids home,” Dreier said.
Activity routes background
Two to three bus drivers each worked about an hour per weekday during the fall and spring. Drivers arrived to Hortonville High School before 5:30 p.m. daily to check for any students in need of a ride home, waited until 5:30 and then took riders home, if any. Students weren’t required to schedule rides ahead of time, so usually drivers arrived to find nobody there.
Drivers were paid regardless of ridership. Many came to HHS from the Greenville bus garage, which increased mileage and time.
“It’s $18-something an hour [for wages], plus mileage driving from the shop down here, sitting here and then driving home,” HASD Director of Transportation Harold Steenbock told the board. “We’ve been tracking it, the student attendance … The ridership just isn’t there.”
Data provided by Steenbock shows 32 students rode the Hortonville and Mackville activity routes over 11 weeks during the spring. Drivers for the two routes covered a combined 1,458 miles, whether there were students on board or not. The two routes combined averaged three riders per week.
The Mackville route went four weeks without any riders, while the Hortonville route went two. The highest week of ridership was five students April 4-8 on the Hortonville route.
Last fall, the Hortonville and Mackville routes operated for nine weeks, not 11, and drew double the riders. Fall drivers drove 537 fewer miles than in the spring.
The third activity route, Greenville, fared better because Greenville Middle School students rode to Hortonville for track practice in April and May. Eighty-seven students rode over 11 weeks for a total of 983 miles.
The Greenville route attracted three to six riders weekly in March before reaching 13 to 18 riders a week from early to late April. It then decreased and hit a low of one rider the week of May 16-20.
Winter activity routes were canceled due to traditionally low winter ridership.
Here is how this year’s numbers compare to the 2014-‘15 academic year:
• Hortonville route: Ridership dipped 42 percent. In 2015-‘16, 58 students rode. One-hundred rode in 2014-‘15. Mileage can’t be compared because miles weren’t recorded for two weeks in spring 2015.
• Mackville route: 2015-‘16 saw a slight increase in ridership, with 48 riders versus 43 riders in 2014-‘15. Mileage again can’t be compared because it wasn’t recorded for three weeks in spring 2015.
• Greenville route: Greenville’s ridership was consistent: 200 riders in 2015-16 versus 198 in 2014-15. But drivers covered 316 more miles this year—1,832 miles total in 2015-‘16 compared to 1,516 miles in 2014-‘15.