Weekly Feature

2008-09-24 / Education

School Board discusses transportation alternatives

Amherst Central

The Amherst Central School District spends between $2.5 million and $2.7 million for transportation. But the School Board is seeking to reduce those costs in the interest of taxpayers.

Last week, the board held one of three meetings regarding transportation in the school district.

The board shared information on overall expenditures for yearly transportation, ideas for cutting transportation costs and the pros and cons of each method.

Business Administrator Greg Kern offered the possibility of altering the bell times by 20 minutes in each school. This would stagger the bus times and decrease the total number of buses used daily by about five to six buses.

The high school currently begins at 7:50 a.m. The board talked about a 7:30 or 8:10 a.m. start time, with strong consideration given to typical high-schoolers' morning behaviors. Kern said the school day itself would remain unaffected.

The outcome would save the district an estimated $275,000 within the first year of employing the different bell schedule.

However, school programs preceding and following the scheduled school day could be negatively affected by the bell alterations, as could commuting times for faculty and staff.

Kern also presented the idea of collaborating with other schools in sharing buses for nonpublic schools. Currently, the Amherst District transports students to 36 private schools. With the aid of other districts, Kern said, each participating school would reap lower costs, but liability issues could arise.

Tampering with the mileage limitations could impact the overall costs as well. Currently, every student in kindergarten through fifth grade is eligible to ride the bus, regardless of the distance between the school and the student's home. Students in grades six through eight are not eligible to ride the bus if their home is within one mile of the school, and for the high school it is within 1.5 miles. Anyone living two to three miles from the school must receive transportation.

By increasing the mileage limitations, fewer students would be permitted to ride the bus, meaning a need for fewer buses.

In the second transportation meeting, to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 4, the board plans to incorporate community input on ways for better transportation while cutting costs. In the last of the three meetings, planned for Dec. 2, board members will hold additional conversation about transportation measures they can take to positively affect students, staff and the community.

Discussions of athletics and staffing will follow similar suit, with three separate meetings for each topic.

The next board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the District Office in Amherst Middle School, 55 Kings Highway.

"We 'd hate to make a decision in a vacuum," Kern said. "We 're really looking for input from the community to decide what is a good idea and what is a bad idea."

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