Parents bring busing issue to board’s attention s attention

By Lorae Vardas

A delegation of parents from the northern end of the district attended the Nov. 22 meeting of the Pierz School Board to air concerns they have regarding early morning pick ups and the time students spend on the bus. Currently, Independent School District 484 runs 13 full-size buses on an equal number of routes with the earliest stop at 6:45 a.m. Pioneer Elementary opens at 8 a.m.

The challenge lies in areas where families live 15-25 miles from school, which typically affects the northernmost and southernmost ends of the district. Adding another bus doesn’t significantly decrease riding time because of the distance traveled, pointed out Superintendent George Weber.

The district continually monitors three main aspects of the student transportation program, he said. These include: student pick up and drop off times to gauge time spent on the bus; ridership of the bus to avoid over crowding; and behavior problems while on the bus. Analyzing routes and possible options are ongoing in order to provide the best service to parents and their children in the most efficient manner.

Two proposed options were discussed. To save time, pick up and drop off points could be established for groups of 8-15 children at each stop. To save space, some of the in-town stops could be eliminated. Both would mean a change in service for some families.

“We do more than any district around in terms of picking up young children who have to walk, even in town, and are going from house to house to get children and dropping them off,” Supt. Weber informed the board. “Almost every district has gone to group drop off points to save time. Almost every district has gone to eliminate in-town pickups in order to save money. Busing is one of the more complicated tasks that rural districts are challenged with.”

The board is evaluating the options to determine if there are any viable solutions to the perennial problem. There are more students living in the Harding-Lakes Area than ever before with many of the roadways dead ending. It will be difficult making any significant changes in the middle of the school year, said Supt. Weber, but that is the challenge.

In other agenda items, the Pierz School Board:

• Hired Patty Stangl for the one-hour special education management aide position at Pioneer Elementary School for the remainder of the school year;

• Approved the proposed 2006-2007 faculty seniority list and the proposed Pierz education assistants senior list;

• Authorized use of the Performing Arts Center and Memorial Athletic Center by the Grad Bash committee from Friday, June 1 after school until June 2;

• Approved payment of bills for October and November amounting to $865,000. A wire transfer of $380,000 from the MSDMAX account to Farmers and Merchants State Bank was likewise approved;

• Added a junior high wrestling coach position for the 2006-2007 school year; and

• Reminded residents that the annual Truth In Taxation public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at the High School. The board next meets in regular session on Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 6 p.m. in the High School Board Room.

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