D51: All busing concerns will be addressed
Parents concerned about new busing boundaries have sent 101 e-mails and left even more voicemail messages for District 51 Safety and Transportation Director Tim Leon.
Leon assured a small audience at Tuesday night’s District 51 school board meeting he would listen and respond to each message, although not always immediately.
“It is a process to get through those,” Leon said.
That process includes district personnel driving to an area and taking pictures each time someone lodges a complaint about the safety of walking to school in an area that used to have busing.
A committee of Grand Valley Transit representatives, law enforcement and the district’s recently retired transportation director, Dave Montoya, examine the pictures and feedback from the community and decide if a bus route should be returned to the area.
The district pushed back walking boundaries by a mile this year in hopes of saving $650,000 in its 2012-13 budget. It’s a cut that attracted four people to question the safety of having students walk longer distances to school during the audience comment portion of the board meeting.
Ginger Reately said her daughter is supposed to walk 2.2 miles to Redlands Middle School but Reately, who is new to the area, said she’s worried about a lack of sidewalks along the route.
She said she’s willing to help if there’s another financial solution to save money in the district’s budget.
Melissa Lovato told the board she feels “foolish” for not being proactive but she is reacting now to the busing change.
She said she hopes the board changes its mind on walking boundaries, even if the change doesn’t come until next school year.
Lovato said she worries children who do not have a support network to get them to school safely and on time may have lackluster attendance without busing.
“I feel we’re making these hurdles much bigger when we should be making it easier for children to get to school,” she said.
Jim Smyth, president of Mesa Valley Education Association, the group that represents District 51 teachers in contract negotiations, said he hopes people have learned there are consequences for the community voting against a property tax-raising ballot measure in November.
The increase would have supplied more money for the district, which cut $5.76 million from its 2012-13 budget to make up for delayed salary increases, maintaining a capital projects budget and an anticipated decrease in enrollment.
“Now folks are realizing those repercussions,” Smyth said.
The district counted 19,211 students Monday on the first day of school, down from 19,412 on the first school day last year. R-5 High, which had about 100 students on the first day of school last year, was not in session until Tuesday and was left out of the count.
The school had an extra teacher training day on Monday, which was funded by a grant.
Many kindergarten students were also excluded from the count because some take skill tests during the first few days of school instead of being in class.
The district will take an official tally of students in early October, when all Colorado school districts count students for budgetary purposes.