There will be 17 more bus stops for Clay High School students next year.
“Since reinstating bussing for the high school, we’ve gone from a very limited bus shuttle process to increasing some additional pickup points this year,” Dr. Mike Zalar, superintendent of the district, said at a board meeting on Tuesday. “This time next year, we’re proposing how we can enhance that even further for the students.”
Dean Sandwisch, business affairs director in the district, said the board had asked him previously to put together a plan increasing bus availability for high school students.
“In January 2012, high school busing was cut on a door to door basis,” said Sandwisch. “We had a very limited shuttle. We had 13 stops at that time. We did that for a semester. This school year, we added eight stops. So we’re at a total of 21 stops. What we have proposed next year is an additional 17 stops, for a total of 38 stops.”
Sandwisch said up to three routes may be added.
“We think we have a pretty good plan to spread throughout the district, mostly in our populated areas. We feel we got some really good coverage. Those routes will be added with Starr Elementary. We’ll be back with a two tier system because the state plan is working on funding more ridership now as opposed to more efficiency. So this allows us to do this as cost effectively as we can.”
Buses transport daily about 2,025 students K through 12, and between 200 and 250 for the high school, according to Sandwisch.
“The board challenged us with putting stops in that were a little bit more evenly spaced out so students would have a little more accessibility to our high school busing and I think we’ve accomplished that with the new map,” Sandwisch told The Press after the meeting.
“There’s still going to be a cost involved with this for the additional routes. There will be more hours and miles with our buses,” he said.
Costs range between $80,000 to $100,000, he said.
“There will be at least two additional buses with the possibility of three. We’re still looking at the routing and going through the routing software with [Transportation Director] Terry Huss,” he said.
Other proposals in the district next year include changing the start of the school day, he said.
“We got some nuances to work out, but I think the elementary schools next year are all going to be on the same start time. We got a little bit of variation with the intermediate junior highs. There will be a 15 minute difference between Clay High School and those two.”
The changes will help streamline the bus routes.
“We’re crossing the district. We’re taking all the students from the Fassett area out to Eisenhower, and bringing all the students from Eisenhower to Fassett. So we’re going to be criss-crossing the community. If we had Clay High School starting at the same time, or letting out at the same time, we would have chaos. So that’s why we need that 15 minute differential.”
Currently, Starr starts at 8:35 a.m. and will change to 9:15 a.m. next year to match the starting time of Coy and Jerusalem, which currently start at 9:15 a.m.
“This is going to be wonderful for the professional development of our teachers. It’s just going to be very nice for parents in the district that all the elementary schools start at the same time,” said Sandwisch.
Clay High School will still start at 8 a.m., while plans call for Eisenhower and Fassett to change from the current 7:40 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.
Busing ended in 2011
In 2011, the Oregon school board eliminated busing for Clay High School students due to budget constraints.
Following complaints by parents, and some improvement in the district’s finances, the board decided to establish a shuttle service for high school students, starting with 13 pickup points, or bus stops, in January 2012. In Phase 2, eight pickup points were later added. In Phase 3, plans call for 17 more pickup points for the next school year.
Board members P. J. Kapfhammer and Jeff Ziviski based part of their 2011 campaigns on bringing back busing for the students.
At the school board meeting on Tuesday, Kapfhammer said he was pleased by the bus shuttle system and the additional stops for the next school year.
He thanked Sandwisch and Huss for coming up with the extra pickup points.
“When I came onto the board, it was very important to me to do whatever we can to get kids on buses for the safety features,” said Kapfhammer. “I just believe our kids deserve a bus ride. You guys have worked very, very hard with the limitations you had in front of you, and quite literally came up with – although not door to door- as good as we’re going to get with the busing we have.”
Ziviski said after the meeting that the board has worked together in the last year to ensure the district is operating efficiently.
“The projects that have been completed through the current PI levy have been chosen because they offer cost savings, which come out of the general fund. We have focused a lot of our time and effort towards making our daily operations more efficient, and this was done mostly on the utility side. We have been able to save over $500,000 a year in utility costs by becoming more energy efficient, said Ziviski.
“When the state came out with the new budget, while it has not been approved yet, the preliminary numbers show Oregon schools will get a decent increase in state funding,” he added. “If you combine that with the cost-saving initiative that has been realized, bringing back high school busing just made sense.”