Board backs administrative recommendation to reconfigure routes, enforce new transportation guidelines
A revamped busing plan designed to cut costs and reduce transportation times for students has been endorsed by the Grafton School Board.
In reviewing changes first proposed in January, Supt. Mel Lightner told the board last week that the new plan is expected to save the district $150,000 annually by reconfiguring attendance areas and bus routes for students living in areas for Woodview, Kennedy and Grafton Elementary schools.
A redrawn attendance map reduces the Grafton Elementary area and increases the other two areas, giving each about 300 students. The new attendance areas will go into effect this fall for new students, including those entering 4 and 5-year-old kindergarten.
Lightner said the new plan pares the total number of daily bus routes from 49 to 40. However, because a grandfather provision will allow some students to continue going to schools outside their attendance areas, shuttle routes will also be required.
Go Riteway, which provides Grafton’s bus service, participated in a transportation study and prepared new route options. In response to concerns that some students were spending more than an hour on buses before they reached school, Lightner said riding times have been trimmed significantly, with the longest routes averaging 45 minutes.
“These buses will be filled to capacity, but it’s efficient and we’re going to save money,” Lightner told the board. “I think we’ve hit our mark.”
The district currently spends $622,000 annually on busing that provides 24 morning routes and 25 afternoon routes. The changes are designed to cut the cost to $475,000, including $46,000 for shuttles, Lightner said.
To reach the goals of cutting costs and ride times, Lightner said, the district must strictly enforce busing guidelines this fall, including:
• Only transporting elementary students who live more than one mile from school and middle and high school students who live more than two miles from school.
• Not transporting students who live in walk zones to schools in their attendance area. The walk limits will be 1/4-mile to a bus stop for elementary students and 1/2-mile to a bus stop for middle and high school students.
An exception will be made for students who live in hazardous areas, such as streets with high-traffic volumes.
• No open-enrollment students or others living outside attendance areas will be allowed to ride buses.
• Bus routes will use the same pick-up and drop-off locations on each school day.
To accommodate new routes, the board in January approved changes to school-day schedules.
Grafton High School will be virtually unchanged, with a 7:30 a.m. start time and 2:40 p.m. end.
John Long Middle School will change from its 8:05 a.m. to 3:16 p.m. schedule to 7:30 a.m. to 2:40 p.m.
All elementary schools will change from their 8 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. schedules to 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The new times will add 30 minutes to the school day.
Lightner said adhering to the guidelines “will be a significant change for many families.”
However, “it is imperative that we follow these guidelines to achieve our stated goals,” Lightner added.
“Busloads are high, timing of stops is crucial and any variations will not allow us to achieve the cost savings and route times as projected.”
Lightner said the 2014-15 routes include transporting students to St. Paul Lutheran School and St. Joseph Catholic School but not Our Savior Lutheran School, whose location would require an additional bus.
“We could not incorporate Our Savior student onto the current projected routes and meet our goals for minimizing shuttles and reducing route times,” he told the board.
Director of Business Services Kristin Kollath said transporting the 15 Our Savior students who currently ride the bus costs $34,805, or $2,320 per student — more than four times the average student cost for the rest of the district.
Under state law, the district can offer contracts to parents of parochial-school students eligible for busing, paying families to cover their own transportation costs.
Kollath said it is not known how many of the 36 students in the Grafton School District who attend Our Savior are eligible for busing. But even if all 36 were eligible, the district could still save $14,000 by offering contracts, she noted.
The board took no formal action on the busing changes but asked Lightner and Kollath to continue fine-tuning the plan.