L'ANSE - A recent budget cut by the L'Anse Area Schools Board of Education has raised concern from several parents in the district.
When faced with a projected $580,000 deficit, the board trimmed wherever it could with the least impact, but one of those areas was reducing the number of bus routes to some rural areas. As a result, some children would be required to walk more than a mile to a bus stop.
"(The board) looked everywhere, from support staff, to cleaning, to teachers, to aides, to sports, to busing," LAS Superintendent Carrie Meyer said in a Daily Mining Gazette interview. "There wasn't one area that was not looked at in detail. What the board decided to do was pick a portion of each area to make cuts in order to offset that deficit."
Specifically with busing, the district has been sending two buses each to the Covington-Sidnaw and Alston-Nisula areas, but both buses came back half full.
"With moving to one bus in both areas, that was a projected savings of $68,000," Meyer said.
"That would eliminate door-to-door service and create bus stops."
Several parents expressed concern about the busing reduction, and nine families attended a school board finance committee meeting last Thursday to discuss the issue.
"The committee listened to us, and pretty much had an open mind with us," aid Carrie Sikkila, who lives in Nisula and whose sons Aaron and Austin are going into eighth and third grade at LAS, respectively. "... It's really a safety issue. A lot of the stops are on blind hills, and my kids, if I couldn't be home, they're going to be walking a mile. We have wolves, coyotes and bears."
According to Meyer, the meeting went "very, very well," and it resulted in a plan to post a temporary job for a bus driver in each of the areas. The bus would stay in the rural area, and the driver would pick kids up door to door, then transport them to the more centrally located bus stops, where the bus coming from town would then take them to school.
"This option would be adding additional costs, though," Meyer said. "We had an initial savings of $68,000, and it would be reduced to a savings of $30,000-$35,000. That would mean close to $35,000 back on our deficit budget."
Applications for bus drivers are due by noon Friday. Forms can be picked up at the district's central office between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and more information about the job posting can be found at lanseschools.org/employment.php.
"If this option doesn't work, the next option would be to adjust the bus stops on these last proposals to make sure the bus stop locations are as safe as possible," Meyer said.
The Covington-Sidnaw area has more businesses and safe locations, according to Sikkila, than the Alston-Nisula area, so she hopes drivers step forward to reinstate door-to-door service in the areas.
A resolution to the issue will likely be decided on at the 5 p.m. Monday regular school board meeting, which will take place in the school board room at L'Anse Junior/Senior High School.