Bloomfield to hold meeting on school bus pick-up

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Bloomfield School District will hold a public meeting Tuesday, July 27, to gain input on alternate transportation for in-town students for the 2010-11 school year.

The Bloomfield School Board voted to stop picking up students within a mile of the campus at their July 12 meeting in an effort to reduce transportation costs.

"Schools receive money from the state for transporting students who live greater than a mile from school, according to a funding formula calculation," said Dr. Nicholas Thiele, superintendent. "Students who live within one mile from school are considered ineligible for funding purposes."

Theile said the district has provided bus transportation to students close to campus "as a service to the community". He told the board at the meeting earlier this month that he was anticipating reduced transportation funding next year as a result of shortfalls in state funding.

Thiele said the purpose of the public meeting next week is to meet with parents in an effort to identify problems that may be caused by the decision and to work out some solutions. He said the district has already begun receiving some feedback and is considering some changes which include the transportation of students who live east of Highway 25, a major traffic artery. He said the district is also considering establishing an alternate drop-off/pick-up location for in-town students.

Thiele said one of the biggest concerns he has received is from parents who work in another city who have to leave for work before school starts. Theile said students currently cannot be dropped off at school prior to 7:30 a.m each day when staff becomes available to monitor the students. He said the district is considering opening the cafeteria at 7 a.m. for student drop-off. Thiele said is was possible that some school clubs could help with activities for students who arrive earlier.

"Parents could pay a small per child fee as a fundraiser for the clubs," Thiele added.

The main reason for the decision by the board to stop in-town student transportation was to save money, Thiele said. The decision to eliminate a bus route at a previous meeting was also a factor. The move by the district is expected to save the district between $25,000 and $30,000. The district transported approximately 75 in-town students last year.

Thiele said some of criticism of the decision focused on the fact that buses coming in from rural routes pass by students in town. He said the elimination of a rural route means that more students are going to be on the existing buses. Some of those buses would be at capacity when they get back to town, which means they would be unable to pick up more students. He said on some days there may be enough extra room to pick up those students, but on other days there wouldn't. To assure daily pick-up of in-town students would mean restoring the bus route that was cut.

Thiele also pointed out that Bloomfield does have a city bus transit that could be utilized. The cost of that transport is 50 cents.

Thiele said the district would help establish a "walking buddies" program which would help families living near each other to identify older students to walk to school with younger students. He said the district could add more bike racks at the school if students opted to ride their bikes instead of walk.

Another problem that could arise from the decision to stop in-town student transportation is the increase of traffic at the school campus.

Debra Clink, Missouri Department of Transportation Safe Routes and School coordinator, wrote to Thiele, "I encourage you to promote walking and bicycling to/from school when possible."

Clink went on to advise the district that the decision will increase vehicle traffic at the campus during drop-off and pick-up times.

"If you have the ability to separate vehicle traffic, pedestrian traffic and school bus traffic, the affects of the additional vehicles around the school may be minimal," Clink wrote.

Thiele added that the district will continue to provide cross-walk monitors at major intersections on campus.

"Some of the cuts are not going to be popular," Thiele said referring to projected shortfalls in state funding next year. "We are trying to protect our core curriculum."

All interested residents of the Bloomfieid School District are invited to attend the public meeting July 27 to talk with Thiele or representatives of the school district.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. and will be held at the Bloomfield High School Library.

For further information, residents may contact Dr. Nick Thiele at 568-4564.

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