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Reynoldsburg families address busing
Grandparent Mona Lewis stood before the Reynoldsburg City School Board during the Sept. 15 board meeting as an advocate for her 12-year-old grandson who lives with mental retardation and developmental disabilities (MRDD).
"You have a very volatile situation," Lewis said. "It really is life or death."
Lewis' grandson rides a bus full of MRDD students every day. The bus has 19 students and one bus driver. There is no assistance, she said, and no one to help should any situation arise.
One such situation arose earlier this month when students began a simple game of "smack the other person's arm," she said.
While her grandson is 12 years old, Lewis said his mental capacity is that of a 5-year-old. No one was on the bus to stop the situation, and her grandson eventually scratched another student on the face, she said.
Lewis said she did not condone her grandson's actions but was concerned that there was no one there to help the bus driver with even a simple, "stop that."
"These students are getting out of their seats," she said. "This is 100 percent unacceptable for students with special needs. You need a second person on that bus."
Currently, the district is paying for a bus to come pick up Lewis' grandson and drive him to and from school every day.
By the end of the meeting, board members were in agreement with Lewis and looking into the matter to see what the district could provide for her student. The president of the support staff association reassured Lewis at the end of the meeting, promising to call her to get something set up.
"You are taking a chance with their lives every single day, twice a day," Lewis said. "I don't care how they get someone on that bus."
Transportation continues to be an issue for high school students as well. Parent Loretta King came before the board to make suggestions for consideration to create more of a balance for the district.
As a resident of Taylor Woods, she and her husband have had to make sacrifices at an inconvenience to their employers to be able to transport their child to and from school.
Recommendations were made to the board to consider future changes including monthly bus passes and a swing schedule of dates for students to be able to ride the bus, King said.
"We don't want families moving from our district," she said.
Board President Cheryl Max said the board is looking at options to try to get high school into the mix.
Resident Frank Peck brought additional transportation concerns to the board and asked board members to explain why the teachers were given a 3-percent raise despite the budgetary concerns.
Max explained that the current contract was negotiated three years ago without knowledge of the financial changes that were to come this past year.
"That contract was entered into in good faith," Max said.
Peck continued to question the lack of communication between the board and the union and steps not taken to eliminate the pay increases for staff.
Board member Jim Slonaker interceded stating, "That is not our place to do that" in regards to going to the teachers' union requesting them to re-negotiate the already agreed upon salary increase. Board member Andrew Swope verified that the union was willing to give back 1 percent.
Superintendent Steve Dackin spoke to reductions earlier in the meeting and applauded the current efforts of teachers who are doing "a whole lot more with a whole lot less."
Dackin said transportation continues to be a challenge that the school board and administration are working on and trying to make improvements.
Going back to the ballot in November is an acknowledgment of what was said last spring by the community, he said, but the change to the 9.9-mil levy can't bring all the district had back.
"It doesn't work that way," Dackin said.
In addition to the tightening of the budget to reduce the amount the board is asking, the release of the new state budget has shown an additional reduction of what would equal to 2 mil in taxes for district revenue.
"These are issues facing us," Dackin said. "We will be forced to cut yet again if not able to get revenue into the district, yet we continue to get excellent standards again and again."
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