VINCENT - Warren Local school officials are now recommending that bus service for elementary students living less than two miles from their school be retained even if the May 3 bond issue does not pass.
In February, the board of education approved a number of cuts, including the elimination of busing above the minimum state requirements, as a way to cut costs and repair aging buildings if the 8.76-mill bond issue and levy are rejected for a fourth time. School districts are only required to provide busing for kindergarten through eighth-grade students who live more than two miles away from the school they attend.
Cutting busing to state minimum levels has also been approved by the Marietta City School District if its emergency operational levy is rejected on May 3.
In the Warren district, board of education member Bob Allen said the recommendation not to eliminate elementary busing was made in part because of convenience for residents but primarily because of safety.
"We have significant concerns about elementary school children because all of our facilities are on main state routes," Superintendent Tom Gibbs said. "If the bond issue fails, we will just be eliminating high school busing."
Gibbs said a vote on the change will be taken at the board's May meeting. The board meets Monday but Allen said the vote will be delayed a month in case the bond issue passes and the board would be voting on rescinding multiple reductions at that time.
Keeping all busing for elementary students will not impact the estimate of nearly $1.5 million to be saved by cuts to high school busing, personnel and other areas, Gibbs said. Only high school busing was included in the original estimate, he said.
Approximately 366 high school students would be affected by the elimination of busing, Gibbs said.
And not all elementary students would remain untouched by the issue.
Veto resident Sarah Misel, 34, said her children - a ninth-grader at the high school and a fourth-grader at Warren Elementary - both ride the bus. If high school busing is eliminated, though, she would be driving both of them.
"She (the fourth-grader) misses her bus because I'm taking my high schooler to the high school," Misel said.
Some district residents opposed to the bond issue have railed against the cutting of busing as well, saying it's not a necessary reduction but a political move.
"It's like a strong-arm tactic to the no voters to vote yes," said Carol Hamilton, 53, of Warren Township.
Misel said she doesn't see it that way.
"It's not a tactic. It's just the way things have to be," she said.
"I think it's very unfortunate that the voters can't realize they're going to end up spending more money taking their high schooler to the high school" than they would on the bond issue, Misel said.
The bond issue, which would raise the 42 percent local share of a $74.6 million project to build new schools, would cost the owner of a residential property assessed at $100,000 approximately $268.28 a year over a maximum of 28 years.
Hamilton said she wondered whether busing to sporting events would be eliminated if high school busing was cut.
Gibbs said it would not because it would be funded by the athletic fund. Currently, that only pays for drivers, but starting next year it would cover a cost per mile as well.
"In this manner, no general fund or tax money would be used for athletic trips," Gibbs said.
Increases in entry fees to sporting events will primarily cover the new cost, he said.
Marietta's five-year, 6.21-mill operating levy would cost the owner of residential property assessed at $100,000 an estimated $190.27 a year.