(Posted Oct. 20, 2016)
By Sandi Latimer, Staff Writer
Beginning with the 2017-18 academic year, Madison-Plains Local School District will run two-tiered busing, with the older students arriving first, then the same buses making a second trip to pick up the younger children.
The school board, by a 4-1 vote at their Oct. 18 meeting, accepted the recommendation of Superintendent Tim Dettwiller. Casting the lone negative vote was David Hunter who said he felt the district should focus its efforts on an operating levy rather than worry about busing.
Dettwiller said the district could realize an estimated $390,000 in extra state funds by going to the two-tiered plan and use one less bus driver. But he also acknowledged the big challenge would be child care, an issue the district’s child care committee will continue working on when it meets Nov. 9.
“You can’t please everyone,” he admitted.
Currently, students are picked up on one route, arriving in time for classes to begin at 7:45 a.m. and dismiss at 2:50 p.m. Under the new plan, students in grades 7-12 will be picked up and brought to campus for classes to begin at 7:30 a.m. The same buses will then make a second trip to pick up the younger children so they can arrive at campus by 9 a.m.
Junior and senior high students will be dismissed at 2:30 p.m. Kindergarten through sixth grade will let out at 3:45 p.m.
Dettwiller said the older students would have more time for extracurricular activi-ties, after-school jobs, and early college class work, while younger children will have time to get much needed extra sleep.
The busing issue was debated for several months at board meetings and other school meetings. Area residents were also surveyed for their opinions.
Board member Bob Butz asked if there is a contingency plan in case the two-tier busing didn’t work. Dettwiller said the district would return to the system now in place.
Hunter, a candidate for Madison County commissioner, said that while he was out campaigning, people wanted to talk about busing.
He said he approves of segregating the students on the buses because he doesn’t think the little ones should be subjected to the foul-mouthed older students. But he also said he didn’t want to put an extra burden on taxpayers, some of whom would have to pay for child care as well as an operating levy.
“I would rather pass a levy now and worry about busing later,” he said.
Some parents voiced objection of the two-tier plan at the board meeting. They said children would still have to get up before dawn to get to childcare before catching the bus.
Bobbie Jacobs of Mount Sterling said the younger students would be getting home or to daycare at about dark, which limits time for outdoor play. She also said it would make it difficult to schedule medical appointments after school.
Becky Bush, another Mount Sterling parent, said the new schedule would make for a long day for children and extra costs for parents who would have to seek day care. She also wondered if the fact that the older children practicing for games in the gym would interrupt the education process.
“I would rather pass a levy to get the money we need,” she said.
The district is looking at putting an operating levy on the ballot in a year or two. The five-year financial forecast prepared by Treasurer Todd Mustain shows the district slipping into the red in fiscal year 2019 by $627,000.
Mustain said the figures as of this month are better than they had been since earlier figures showed the district would be at least $1 million in the red by that time.
“We can’t operate in the red,” he said.
District voters approved an 8-mill operating levy in 2005 and renewed it in May 2014.
Mustain went through the revenue and expenditures for the coming years, pointing out a bright spot—the debt to the Energy Conservation Program will be paid off in 2017 “and we’ll be debt free,” he said.
In other action, the school board recognized several students for their achievements:
- the boys golf team for winning the league championship their first year in the Ohio Heritage Conference;
- Saige Butin for winning first place in market and first place in showmanship for the three lambs she showed at the Madison County Fair and winning reserve grand champion with one of the lambs;
- Haylee Henry as a premier market exhibitor and having a champion market gilt and reserve champion market hog at the Madison County Fair;
- and students of the month—Addison Davison, grade 12; Aubrey Lilly, grade 11; Kloee Whitaker, grade 10; Jacob Long, grade 9; Mason Brown, grade 8; and Cainan Kelly, grade 7.