A number of private school students may miss the bus

Wednesday, February 16, 2011  11:32 AM

ThisWeek Community Newspapers

The Worthington Schools will attempt to save $214,000 a year by no longer busing 43 students to ten private schools.

The Worthington Board of Education on Monday heartily endorsed a recommendation from administrator George Joseph and transportation director George Sontag.

Several board members called the recommendation a "no-brainer."

The actual recommendation is to no longer provide transportation to private and charter school for fewer than ten students.

Currently, the district pays $221,674 annually to bus such students. In one case, one student is bused to one school at a cost of $10,918 a year.

The district also buses two students each to two schools, and four to seven students to seven schools.

The state reimburses the district with $7,654 a year, total.

The problem is, the district is not sure the state will buy the district's argument that it is impractical to bus those students.

Once the parents of these students are notified of the district's plans, they can choose to accept an annual payment of $178 a year to provide their own transportation, or they may appeal the decision to the Ohio Department of Education.

If an appeal is made, the district must continue to bus the children until a decision is made.

And no one is sure what the state may decide.

"This is a very, very unchartered area, we don't know where it will lead," Sontag said.

Board president Marc Schare asked why the limit was ten, suggesting the district might want to look at stopping the costly busing of even more private and charter school students.

"It is irresponsible to not go forward," he said.

The district is studying ways to save money as recommended in the state audit that was done last year.

Besides cutting back on private school busing, Joseph and Sontag are exploring the idea of adjusting the starting times of two elementary schools, which could save as much as $100,000 a year.

Also being explored is changing bus routes to all schools.

Board policy requires the transportation of all elementary and middle school students who live more than 1.5 miles from school.

But 473 elementary and middle school students who live within that limit are bused to school.

At the high school level, 159 students are bused who live within the district limit of two miles.

No changes will be made until conditions are investigated in each case, Joseph said.

Board member Julie Keegan complimented the work of Joseph and Sontag.

"You've done a great job using the information to help the district make changes," she said.