By Michael Fitzpatrick
Students who live in North Ridgeville and attend alternative schools in both Westlake and on Cleveland’s west side will soon have to provide their own transportation to those buildings.
The North Ridgeville City Schools currently buses approximately 20 students who attend Menlo Park Academy, 14440 Triskett Road, and Albert Einstein Academy, 3600 Crocker Road. The district has a policy that it provide transportation on district owned and operated buses to students who attend schools outside the district as long as certain criteria is met — the most important being that at least 10 students at a particular school regularly use the bus service provided.
However, an audit recently completed by the district’s transportation department revealed that between Sept. 2 and Sept. 22, ridership to both Menlo and Albert Einstein consistently dipped well below the 10 student threshold. That finding prompted transportation coordinator Tom Dane to attend the North Ridgeville School Board meeting on Oct. 6 and request the board vote to approve a resolution to end the service to Menlo and Albert Einstein because it is impractical.
Dane said parents of the students who have been using the busing service signed papers before the school year started informing them the district could discontinue the service if ridership numbers did not meet the required minimums.
Dane said there has been pushback from some parents whose children will now have to find another way to school.
“They called the (transportation) office or called the board, just wondering ‘you promised us a bus, why are you doing this?’ And I have to explain that we are transporting one student, how is that efficient?” Dane said when asked how parents reacted to news that the service will be ending.
Dane said the district uses one of its large yellow buses, which can seat up to 70 students, to haul the student to Menlo and Albert Einstein. Running the route for the entire school year, according to information provided by the district, costs approximately $50,000, which seems like a pretty costly amount to pay to transport at most 20 students to and from school for an entire academic year.
Freeing up the bus could help improve transportation for those students who attend schools in the district, Dane said.
While the move will free up an extra bus for the district, it will cause a hardship for the families of those children who were using the service to get to school, a point that did not go unrecognized by school officials.
“You certainly don’t want it to be a hardship on them. Hopefully they know other families in the area who are sending their kids there and there is the possibility of car pooling so the hardship can be minimized,” said Bill Greene, an assistant superintendent with the North Ridgeville City Schools. “I feel for those families that have to scramble now and come up with some rides.”
Greene admitted the district received a number of phone calls complaining about the its decision to discontinue the service.
“Dr. Powell and I received the majority of them. And I get it. They started the school year thinking this is going to be great. Our kids are riding the bus and Mom and Dad can do what they need to do to keep the household running in the morning and then head off to work and then a wrench is thrown into their plans a month in,” said Greene.
Dane told the board that the families could appeal the district’s decision to the state, which could result in the matter being sent to mitigation. In addition, the family of each student will receive $250 from the district in what’s called “in lieu of transportation” funding, which the family can then use to defray the cost of transporting that student to school.
Greene said the district is planning on discontinuing the service as of Oct. 27. The board of education is expected to vote on the resolution to discontinue the service at its Oct. 20 meeting.