By Rick Palsgrove
The ongoing COVID pandemic is wreaking havoc throughout society and now it has also disrupted school transportation resulting in the Groveport Madison School district filing a lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Education.
The suit is in regards to a nearly $700,000 fine the ODE levied against Groveport Madison because it alleges the district did not provide busing for private and charter school children for a period of time.
Per Ohio law, public schools are required to bus students who reside in the district but who attend school at private or charter schools. The law indicates districts that do not do so can be fined.
According to Groveport Madison’s lawsuit, the deduction of almost $700,00 in ODE transportation funding would have a “disastrous and irreparable impact on Groveport Madison’s ability to provide timely, safe, and consistent transportation for its students.”
According to the district, about 5,100 of its approximately 6,000 students rely on bus transportation on about 68 bus routes.
Groveport Madison contracts with Petermann Transportation to provide bus transportation for its students. The lawsuit paperwork states the district makes every effort to provide such transportation through Petermann, but a bus driver shortage, believed to have been brought on by the ongoing COVID pandemic as well as alleged labor disputes, has adversely affected the district’s ability to provide busing. This has resulted in reduced or cancelled bus routes. Because of these problems, the lawsuit states, “Groveport Madison has been forced to serve the same number (and indeed an increasing number) of students with only 51 bus routes.”
The district states it has “repeatedly and consistently strived to ensure that it meets its statutory obligation to provide transportation to all students residing in the district…” and that it believes the state’s view of what it determines to be a prolonged period of non-compliance is unclear.
The district maintains the state did not give it a chance to challenge the ODE’s actions or to have a hearing regarding the problem.
The lawsuit notes the approximately $700,000 fine levied against the district by the ODE is based on a calculation of $53,000 per day for 13 days. The lawsuit indicates the district anticipates the ODE plans to deduct the fine from Groveport Madison’s next scheduled payment of state transportation funds in February.
Groveport Madison’s lawsuit states this fine would make it more difficult for the district to provide student transportation and cause “irreparable harm.”
Groveport Madison officials stated they could not comment on this issue due to the pending litigation.