Survey, community forum focus on District 161 bus realignment

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Survey, community forum focus on District 161 bus realignment

March 18, 2015 - 08:13
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Flossmoor School District 161 is seeking community input on a plan to cut the number of bus routes for elementary students, a move that could reduce the transportation budget by as much as $270,000.

Superintendent Craig Doster sent a letter to community members last week informing them of the proposed bus route realignment. He also asked parents of school age children to complete a survey on bus travel times and whether buses should be filled closer to capacity. District officials will answer questions about the proposed realignment at an informational forum next month.

“We have reviewed all of the district’s regular education bus routes and identified fewer students are riding the buses to and from school each day,” Doster said in the letter. “The student capacity for a bus is 71 and we are averaging approximately 22 elementary students per bus.”

Doster said District 161 is considering cutting between six and eight elementary bus routes. Each route costs the district nearly $34,000 a year so cutting those routes would save between $202,650 and $270,650, he said.

No changes in bus service are being considered for Parker Junior High students.

District 161 spends $1.071 million per year on transportation, Doster said. The State of Illinois currently reimburses the school district approximately $500,000, with the balance coming from local property taxes.

At their March 9 meeting, board of education members renewed the district’s bus contract with Positive Connections, of Markham. The bus company will provide service in the coming school year for $193 per day on each route. Board members waived the bid process after Doster told them that going out for bids on the bus contract would have resulted in substantially higher rates than the $193 per day guaranteed by Positive Connections.

At last week’s meeting, Doster proposed a reduction of as many as nine bus routes. School board members said they want community members to be surveyed on the bus route realignment and that an information meeting should be held on the issue.

Realigning the elementary bus routes would increase the average student riders to approximately 40 students per bus and increase the riding time by 15 to 20 minutes, Doster said in his letter. Currently, the average riding time for elementary bus riders is 10 to 15 minutes. The first elementary bus stop would begin picking up students at approximately 7:35 a.m., compared to 7:50 a.m. this school year. The afternoon bus routes would also be extended by 15 to 20 minutes as well.

Administration officials contacted both Homewood-Flossmoor High School District 233 and Homewood School District 153 to determine how much time their students spend riding buses. District 153 has an average of 47 students per elementary bus route and the students ride for an average of 30 to 40 minutes, Doster said. In addition, Homewood 153’s morning routes begin at approximately 7:15 to 7:30 a.m.

Buses for the high school average 50 to 56 students and the student travel time is approximately 25 to 30 minutes.

The online survey form is located on the District 161 web site. Doster asked parents to complete the survey and submit it on or before April 10.

District 161 will host the community forum on the proposed bus route realignment at 7 p.m. April 21 at the Normandy Villa administration center, 41 E. Elmwood Dr., Chicago Heights.