The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 14, 2008

Carlisle School looks at more bus fees, one fewer bus

With a tough budget year looming, the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) on November 5 examined the economics involved in school bus transportation. New fees are being considered for students living within a two-mile radius of the campus. Route consolidation is also being explored in an effort to trim costs. The CSC has not made a final decision on either initiative.

Superintendent Marie Doyle reported on two public meetings held on October 21 to discuss school transportation and bus fees. A small percentage of parents, approximately 16, attended the meetings (see “More Carlisle students may face bus fee,” Mosquito, October 24.)

Doyle said parents who attended “are in favor of consolidating the buses; they are in favor of perhaps people walking a little bit further to the bus routes when it is safe. So we are able, perhaps, to reduce the buses by one bus.” The length of time students would spend on the bus was also discussed, “Parents felt a half hour or 45 minutes was reasonable” for each leg of the trip to school, she said. As a way to reduce the number of buses for kindergartners, Doyle said, “parents are very much in favor of saying if you are in a safe area you walk to the end of the cul-de-sac and let’s just try to make fewer stops and more general bus stops.”

She explained that each bus costs around $50,000. “That’s one teacher,” said committee member Louis Salemy. Carlisle School Business Manager Heidi Zimmerman pointed out the cost could rise to $60,000 under the new bus contract. She noted she needs to know soon the exact number of buses required for the 2009–2010 school year before she goes to bid on a new bus contract. “I’m glad the parents are being cooperative,” said Salemy. “We almost have no choice.”

New fees affect majority

The “other big issue” that came up was about the bus fees, Doyle continued. By law, only students who live beyond two miles from school must be provided with transportation. Students in seventh and eighth grade also do not have to be transported. Approximately two-thirds of Carlisle students, she explained, live within two miles of school or are seventh and eighth graders. “We could be charging bus fees” for those students, said Doyle.

“I’m for the argument the other way, though,” said CSC Chair Chad Koski. “This is more from the environmental argument. We should not be encouraging everybody, every single parent to drive their kid to school, because that’s 700 cars versus a couple of buses.” “Absolutely,” replied Doyle. “The issue you will be facing in a couple of months,” she continued, “is if we charge fees for K-through-eight students. Is it fair that the elementary people can drive free when by law they are not supposed to be provided transportation?” Koski replied, “It’s not that they are not supposed to be provided; it’s that it’s not required.”

The Carlisle School has been given permission to use Concord’s bus route software to assist in developing more efficient bus routes, Doyle reported. “There’s a lot of work going on behind the scenes to see if we can save a little bit of money on transportation.” ∆

© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito