District 153 board members agreed to discontinue bus service for students who do not meet the state-mandated 1.5-mile distance from school.
The board voted 5-0, with Ashanti Bethea abstaining, to eliminate the busing service for those students who live within walking distance. The new policy will begin with the new school year in August.
Several parents brought their concerns to the board at its May 17 meeting saying they need the service for the safety of their children or to make certain their child is transported to school in the morning after they have already left for their jobs.
The state reimburses a school district for transportation costs, but at only 70 percent of the actual cost. District 153 is paying the remainder. Bus transportation is for students who live more than 1.5 miles from school or are considered to be on dangerous routes. The guidelines are set by the Illinois Department of Transportation and can not be adjusted by the district.
This school year, the district had 1,918 students. Of those, 1,147 rode a bus to school. About 658 of the bus riders live less than 1.5 miles from their school. Of those bus riders that live within 1.5 miles, about 42 families pay to ride the bus, according to John Gibson, chief school business official for District 153.
The state says children living less than that 1.5-mile distance can walk to school. Some ride bikes and others are part of a parent carpool.
The process of scheduling bus service for those children within the 1.5 miles of school has become cumbersome and the costs are becoming prohibitive, said John Gibson, chief school business official.
“This is a decision we wrestled with,” Gibson said, adding it is affecting as few students as possible.
Although parents paid for the service, the fee didn’t covering the full costs associated with the transportation. Gibson said that means the district is subsidizing the expense. Hiring a separate bus for students living close to school isn’t a solution either, because of the area covered, he said.
Superintendent Dale Mitchell said one option may be the Homewood-Flossmoor Park District morning and afternoon care programs at the Irwin Center. He also noted that Hart School will be opening at 7 a.m. to accommodate students before classes begin.
In other business, the board approved a contract with Kickert School Bus Line Inc. for $313,230 for transportation for special education students. The contract is for the 2016-17 school year.
Kickert Bus serves District 153 as its regular transportation provider. The 2016-17 school year will be the fifth and final year of its contract. The district will include special education transportation in its requirements when it accepts bids for a new busing contract.