By Michael Fitzpatrick
The North Ridgeville City Schools will cease to provide transportation to students who attend Albert Einstein Academy in Westlake as of Friday, according to the district’s transportation supervisor, Thomas Dane. Still in question, though, is what the district intends to do when it comes to transporting students who attend Menlo Academy, which is located on Cleveland’s near west side.
The Board of Education at its Oct. 20 meeting voted to approve a resolution that pays families who have children who attend Albert Einstein $250 per student in what is known as “ reimbursements in lieu of transportation” and end busing students who reside in the North Ridgeville Schools district to the Westlake school. The decision will affect 20 students, who were signed up for the bus service.
School districts are mandated by the Ohio Board of Education to provide transportation to students who attend schools outside of the district as long as more than 10 students residing in the district regularly use the service or the travel time from the pick up location to the school in question is 30 minutes or longer.
The district decided to the cut the service to Albert Einstein after its transportation department conducted a two-week ridership survey in early September. That revealed that,k on average, far less than the mandatory 10 students were using the service.
The board is also likely to cut the bus service to Menlo Academy, located on Cleveland’s westside, as a district survey also revealed ridership to that school fell far below the mandatory level of 10 students. A recent timing of the route revealed it takes more than 30 minutes to travel from the pick-up location to the school. Because the time exceeded 30 minutes, the district does not have provide the families of students attending Menlo the $250 a year for “in lieu of transportation” money, either, should it opt to end the service. Thirteen students have signed up for the service, according to the district.
The possible termination of service to Menlo incensed at least two parents, whose children ride the bus to the school, and they voiced their displeasure with the board and administrators at the Oct. 22 meeting.
Kristin Gampfer said her child attends kindergarten and said the board’s likely decision to drop busing to Menlo will be a total “inconvenience.” She noted the district has provided transportation or “the in lieu of transportation” money to families of students who attend Menlo for the past five years and questioned why the district decided this year to end the service.
Gampfer noted that the travel time can vary based on a variety of factors.
“That can change day to day. I can leave my house and it will take 25 minutes one day and it will take 40 minutes another day,” Gampfer said. “I don’t know if it’s fair to (time it) one or two times and say ‘we are going to discontinue’ when you’ve been providing the service for five years.”
Morgan Therrien, who also spoke at the board meeting, and has a child attending kindergarten at Menlo, said the district’s possible decision to end bussing to the school will disrupt her daily routine. She said she works part-time and adjusted her schedule to make sure she could get her son to the bus’s pick up and drop off spots and now will have to alter her schedule again.
Board president Frank Vacha said it makes financial sense to end the bus service to Menlo as so few students are actually using the service, which takes a full-size bus out of the district’s rotation.
He said it would be fiscally irresponsible to continue the service “when I have buses in district that are bursting at the seams” because of overcrowding issues. The district said it costs on average of $50,000 a year to run a bus route to a school that is located outside of the district.
Superintendent Jim Powell said the district will likely time the route to Menlo a few more times before it decides to have the board take action on whether or not to officially end the service.