September 1, 2014

Elyria
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Columbia Schools to end high school busing amid low ridership

Fewer students at Columbia High School are using buses. Low ridership has forced the school board to eliminate busing services for high school students, starting April 22.  CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

Fewer students at Columbia High School are using buses. Low ridership has forced the school board to eliminate busing services for high school students, starting April 22. CHRONICLE FILE PHOTO

ELYRIA — Citing low ridership and an attempt to save the district money, Columbia Schools has decided to end high school busing effective April 22.

District officials said the decision was made based on the number of students actually riding the bus, the daily cost of the service and what the district could save through the end of the year if bus service was eliminated.

The board had only recently restored high school transportation after the passage of the November levy.

However, the number of students actually riding the bus since then has dropped from an initial count of 70 to 90 students down to 33 to 38 students.

It was just not cost effective to run the buses, Superintendent Graig Bansek said.

“It is unfortunate that few students took advantage of this opportunity, and we know that this is a serious inconvenience to those students and their parents who did,” Bansek said in a letter to parents. “However, the Board of Education is committed to being fiscally responsible with the tax dollars that are approved by the Columbia community.”

High school busing costs Columbia roughly $359.27 per day. Cutting high school busing on April 22 through the remainder of this school year will save the district a minimum of $11,496.64, Bansek said.

“This was something the board has been looking at for months and the board ultimately decided to cut bus service after spring break because the money can be used in other ways in the district for more kids.”

High school busing has been on-again and off-again this school year in Columbia and its all been tied to money. In the beginning of the year, busing was cut to save money. The district was fighting to get a levy passed and, when that happened, busing was brought back Jan. 15, but has never picked up enough steam to make it worth the district’s money.

On the district’s website, there is a tally of weekly bus riders showing the diminishing number of riders. One route started out with 12 riders during the week of Feb. 16, but by March 9 the number of students on the bus dropped to just nine. The decision to pull high school busing should not come as a surprise to parents, Bansek said.

Still, school board president Brenda Buchanan said the decision was not one made easily. She is also the parent of a high school student and the decision affects her household.

“We have to make decisions that are best for the entire district and the money we can save is quite a bit of money for a school district of our size,” she said.

Columbia has about 1,000 students throughout the district.

Even though Columbia successfully passed a 5.5-mill operating levy, Buchanan said the district is not flush with cash and has a massive debt related to a $650,000 loan that was taken out to get the district through last school year.

“That loan must be paid in full next year so we have to watch every dollar we are spending,” she said. “The money for high school busing can go into the general fund and into debt services. The levy really didn’t give us a huge bank account. It just kept us afloat.”

Columbia will retain its busing for kindergarten through eighth grade students, as required by law, as well as busing for students who attend the Lorain County Joint Vocational School. Legally, the district does not have to bus high school students and most districts in Lorain County did away with it years ago.

Parents will have to make plans to transport their students to and from Columbia High School when students return from spring break on April 22.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRobersonCT.

  • Sis Delish

    Do they Sell the unused Buses?

    • Julie O’Brien

      They still use them for K thru 8th grade

  • tickmeoff

    Brenda, this decision will come back and haunt you. You live in Columbia Township, not Cleveland, Ohio. This decision by you and your fellow board members hurts the most impoverished students. As if being poor in high School isn’t bad enough, your pointing them out with your decision. With people such as yourself making these decisions to balance a budget ,on those least able to get to school is pretty selfish. Cars go 55 mph. A kid riding a bike to get to school is putting them in harms way, like i said this decision will come back to haunt you.
    No amount of money saved will equal the safety of a bus. You have your priorities Half Donkey backwards! Think of what a problem you make for single parent families and people who start work from 4 to 7 am. It was cruel to not at least wait till the school year finished! With decision making ability such as yours and your half A– explanation, why don’t you get yourself a job in Columbus….You would fit right in there!
    And don’t compare yourself to Avon, you’re comparing Apples and Oranges.
    A lot of people in Avon pay to have their kids taken to school, They have much higher incomes in Avon.
    Put the Students first, and balance your budget elsewhere. Get your head out of the clouds and understand you are not living in 25 mph Avon!

    • LAB1660

      It’s no wonder they’ve got to stop busing. According to that anonymous pamphlet that we received just before the election last year, it claimed that $400,000 was spent the year before on a building rental in Berea. According the Ohio auditor’s site, Columbia shows a $400,000+ expense and lists it as “other”. Of course, my wife and I attend school board meetings and could never get an answer as to what it exactly was, so we assume that the pamphlet was telling the truth. And, let’s not forget the teachers’ salaries, which at that reporting showed that salaries were 83% of the school district’s budget, and it has increased to around 87% of the budget. So, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out where the money is going–salaries and “administration expense.” But, don’t worry, there’s been talk at the trustees’ meetings that Columbia Schools is going to seek a school income tax…LOL! You see, more money always solves the problem, especially when there is no accountability as to where the other money went. So, let’s see–salaries and “administration expense” get 87% and the students get 13%. Now, is it all about the children? ASOLUTELY!!!

  • LAB1660

    Hey, Lisa, could you investigate where that $650,000 TAN went? In an anonymous pamphlet that was sent out and you provided Graig Bansek front page coverage for his rant claiming that an election was lost because of that pamphlet, which claim was false and was made in advance of that election, wasn’t the lion’s share of that loan to cover rental for the Vivian Smith school in Berea? And, why was additional money needed beyond that over $400,000 rental figure? The state audit lists the $400,000+ figure as “other.” What’s the other? Nobody at the school will answer that question, yet a disgruntled former school board member made mention that it was for the Berea school rental while Copopa was being built onto the middle school. With the new levy, according to the school district, there is over $11 million going through a school district with only about 850+ actual resident enrollees and over 100 open enrollees, and no class has ever graduated even 100 students. And, according to your reports, Lisa, Elyria schools takes in just over $12 million; Elyria schools is a much larger district. Columbia is blowing smoke about their financial situation and their only problem is that they don’t know how to spend their money effectively.

  • dani

    I would like to thank Ms Roberson for responding to my personal email that I sent to her at the CT. NOT.. Please don’t post a link to contact you,if you do not have the good manners to respond. The school board has moved the meeting to CMS, they must be feeling they will need more room for angry parents. It is obvious that these people do not live the lives that most of us do and have more accesibility for their children. They are far removed from our reality and seem to have no accountability for what they do and what they promise. I think it is time for us to become more vigilant in what is going on in our school district. These people need to be held accountable for where they spend the money and the promises that they make. I hope to see a lot of parents 4/2/14 at the board meeting. I would not be sad to see some new, responsible, honest blood on our school board. I have lost all faith in these people.