Alder changes bus routes due to driver shortage

(Posted Jan. 17, 2019)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor

Due to a shortage of bus drivers, Jonathan Alder Local Schools is rerouting the district.

Mark Fenik, assistant principal at the high school, said the district will notify parents this week of the changes. The new routes will go into effect Feb. 1.

“There won’t be any drastic changes,” Fenik noted.

Two of the district’s 21 regular bus drivers resigned this month, and the district has no pool of substitute drivers. School officials hope to fill the vacancies. They’ve also created a combination driver/custodial full-time position in an attempt to attract applicants.

The shortage of bus drivers is a problem not only for Jonathan Alder but for many area districts, said Fenik, who announced the rerouting plan at the Jan. 14 school board meeting.

Fenik also told board members about his research into bussing and transportation software. Many surrounding school districts use software to organize various aspects of their transportation, from routes to vehicle maintenance. The estimated cost is $10,000 to $16,000, he said, depending on the software brand and add-on features. He suggests that the district start with the basic level and add on features as the staff gets comfortable with the software. He plans to present a final recommendation at the February board meeting.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the board approved emergency response pay rates for bus drivers. The decision comes in the wake of drivers assisting with emergency evacuations at the high school and at Tolles Career and Technical Center in December.

In other action regarding safety and security, the board approved an upgrade to the security camera system at Monroe Elementary at a cost of $26,400.

The board also approved several overnight trips for students:

* High school baseball team–Fort Mill, S.C., during spring break, March 23-30, 2019;

* High school choral program–Chicago, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2019;

* High school boys’ basketball–KSA Events Classic basketball tournament, Orlando, Fla., during winter break, Dec. 26-31, 2019; and

* Spanish Club–Ecuador, June 6-16, 2020.

Social work

JoLynn Wheatley, the district’s social worker, provided school board members with an update on services provided by her department.

Last school year, she received 114 social work referrals. So far this year, the number is 70. Most of the referrals are for high school students and most involve mental health issues. Most of the referrals come from school guidance counselors and principals.

When possible, Wheatley helps students with their issues or refers them to Jonathan Alder’s in-school mental health therapist. Currently, the therapist, under contract through The Counseling Source, is helping 25 students. Wheatley would like to add another part-time therapist to keep up with an increase in referrals. She attributes the increase in part to greater awareness of the availability of in-school services. The district started offering in-school therapy 18 months ago.

Among other student support services at Jonathan Alder are Kindness Day, Internet safety classes, and Signs Of Suicide (SOS). The district is extending SOS, a program affiliated with Nationwide Children’s Hospital, to fifth-graders for the first time. The program is slated for late January. With the addition of fifth-graders, the district will phase out the program for sixth-graders. It also is provided to eighth- and 10th-graders.

Community collaborations benefitting students include the LIFT mentor program. John Lanka with Daily Needs Assistance in Plain City recruits adult mentors to pair with children in grades K-12. The program is serving 27 students; the goal is 50 students. To inquire about becoming a mentor, contact Wheatley at (614) 873-8617, ext. 8324.

Other collaborations include Sufficient Grace and Hope’s Lantern, which last year provided take-home food to 148 students in need, and the Plain City Church Fellowship’s food basket project, which helped 145 families this past Christmas.

Organizational meeting

The board held their annual organizational meeting prior to the regular meeting, electing Steve Votaw as board president for 2019 and Tom Birches as vice president.

The board’s regular meetings will continue to take place at 6:30 p.m. on the second Monday of each month in Room 228 at the high school, with some exceptions. Two meetings will take place on Tuesdays, June 25 and July 16. Meetings with different locations are: Feb. 11, junior high; April 8, Monroe Elementary; Oct. 14, Plain City Elementary; and Dec. 9, Canaan Middle School.

For more information about the school board or about the district, including building specific news and events, go online to

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