Sunday, March 21, 2004

District staggers its hours

Fairfield bus-route changes part of $3M trim

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

FAIRFIELD - Some Fairfield students will get to sleep longer in the mornings next fall - but may not get home until suppertime.

Others will be getting up earlier under a plan approved this week by the Fairfield Board of Education. The changes were made to accommodate a three-tier busing system that no longer will include busing for students in grades 9-12 who go to public or private schools.

High school busing was eliminated as part of a plan to cut $3 million from the upcoming school-year budget following the March 2 defeat of an operating levy that would have brought $9.1 million annually to this southern Butler County district of 9,500 students.

Parent Angie Kulifay said the time change wouldn't affect her family adversely because her two boys are early risers. One will be at the middle school, the other at North Elementary. Both schools will begin 30 minutes earlier next year.

Under the plan, buses will pick up students at the intermediate and middle schools on the first run. The second tier will include students at North and South elementary schools. Once they are in class, the buses will make their third trips to pick up students at West, East and Central elementary schools.

The time change doesn't sit well with parent Nancy Bockhold, who will have to either change her work hours or pay for child care.

"I'm not happy. I think they should have asked the parents,'' Bockhold said.

The district now transports about 11,600 students to public and private schools. Eliminating high school busing would reduce that by 3,100 students, said Rob Amodio, administrative assistant for business.

About a dozen bus driver positions could be eliminated and another dozen drivers could have up to a 40 percent reduction in the number of routes they are assigned, said Bill Westerbeck, transportation director. There are currently 54 routes devoted to students in grades 9-12.

But busing wasn't the only cut the district made as part of a $3 million cost reduction plan. Gone next year are field trips and after-school activities.

A salary freeze for all employees has been imposed, buildings will close after school except for latchkey programs and all students in grades K-6 will be charged a $50 annual instructional fee for materials.

At its 5 p.m. April 1 work session at central offices, 211 Donald Drive, the school board will discuss a proposal by a two-week-old group that wants to institute a pay-to-participate program for grades 7-12.

Fairfield town meetings

Before deciding whether to go back on the ballot in August or November - or change the levy request - Fairfield Superintendent Robert Farrell has scheduled two town meetings to get community input.

The first is 7 p.m. Tuesday at North Elementary School, 6116 Morris Road. The second will begin at 7 p.m. March 29 at Central Elementary School, 5058 Dixie Highway.



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