Debate about about spending public money to bus 18 Oberlin Schools students to a private school resumed at Tuesday’s board of education meeting.
Board members in June tabled a proposal to save up to $40,000 by ending busing to Lake Ridge Academy in North Ridgeville. The savings would’ve come from laying off one of the district’s nine part-time bus drivers and from lower gas and mileage expenses for the nine-bus fleet, which carries about 400 of the district’s 1,000 students.
Superintendent David Hall had proposed the cut after being asked by board members to find ways to reduce costs district-wide. But after parents of those being bused complained in June, board members tabled the proposal.
Board members — except for Barry Richard — said in June that the cut wouldn’t have left parents with enough time to make alternative transportation plans.
Parents would’ve received $250 transportation vouchers for the 2016-2017 school year and had the right to appeal the decision to the Ohio Department of Education, which could’ve taken three to six months.
Debate resumed after board members voted against providing busing to seven private or religious schools in Lorain County. The move was symbolic because no Oberlin students attend the schools.
Hall, who had previously tried to get Lake Ridge to pay for the transportation, said he has since been told by the department that school districts cannot accept transportation payments from other schools. He said accepting payments would be seen as making public school students pay for busing, which the department forbids. Hall has been meeting with the Lake Ridge students parents since June to try to find a compromise.
Board members said they’d consider voting in the future to end busing to Lake Ridge in the 2017-2018 school year but Richard questioned why it was allowed at all. Richard said he was philosophically opposed to taxpayer money subsidizing busing to private or parochial schools. He said it incentivizes parents to send their children outside the district, which has seen its enrollment shrink about nine percent in the last decade.
“This whole thing makes no sense to me,” Richard said. “We shouldn’t be motivating them to leave.”
Board vice president Anne Schaum said she agreed with Richard in principle, “but it has to be balanced by the practicality of what we have been doing, and expectations, and what Lake Ridge has to offer.”
While Schaum said she’d consider cancelling busing in the future, board member Albert Borroni said the approximately 30-mile round trips should continue. He noted the parents are taxpayers.
“We have a bus and the ability to do it,” said Borroni, who briefly argued with Richard about the issue. “We shouldn’t be punishing them.”
In other business, residents are invited to tour Eastwood and Prospect elementary schools, Langton Middle School, and Oberlin High School with board members Sept 27. A bus will leave the board’s meeting room at 218 North Pleasant St. at 5 p.m.
The tour is part of determining school building needs and whether to consolidate schools. It comes in the wake of board members in June withdrawing putting a levy for a $35.5 million PK-12 school building on the November ballot. The withdrawal came after residents said they couldn’t afford the cost.
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @GoodenowNews on Twitter.
Photos by Evan Goodenow | News-Tribune Anne Schaum, board of education vice president, said she was reluctant to end busing to the Lake Ridge Academy this school year but would consider it in the future.