Saturday, November 6, 2004

Buses come, go at 2 schools

Fairfield service back; Lakota cuts

By Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer contributor

WEST CHESTER TWP. - Early next year, the roads in West Chester and Liberty townships will get more crowded in the mornings and afternoons, after 3,500 students lose bus transportation.

But the opposite will be true in Fairfield and Fairfield Township, where high school transportation will be restored by the time students return from winter break in early January.

In the Lakota Schools, Ohio's eighth-largest district, busing is being reduced to cut expenses after voters rejected a 7.7-mill operating levy this week. It was the second levy defeat this year.

Fairfield cut its busing when levies failed earlier this year and will restore it after this week's approval of a 4.9-mill operating levy.

Beginning Jan. 18, Lakota will end bus service for public and private school students in grades 10-12. "Exclusionary zones" of one-half to one-mile will be established for each of the elementary, junior and freshman schools, and bus service will be discontinued for students living within those zones.

The move will eliminate between 25 and 30 bus routes, said Jon Weidlich, Lakota spokesman.

"Our goal is to let parents know before Thanksgiving, but it might be December,'' Superintendent Kathleen Klink said.

Lakota parents will be sent a letter asking for their suggestions and help in keeping traffic moving once busing ends. The district wants to know if parents will drive their students or join carpools.

Bus service could be curtailed further next August. The district is faced with making $7 million in cuts for the 2005-06 school year to balance its budget.

Meanwhile, Fairfield educators are planning for a return of busing for high school students. That can't happen until the district is able to hire and train 14 drivers, said Rob Amodio, the district's business manager.

"We're going to aggressively recruit drivers, but we won't put anybody on the road until they've been trained,'' Amodio said. "We put all new drivers through four to six weeks of training. Safety is our top concern.''

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