ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Brainerd School District looking for ways to solve bussing issues

School district leaders will start brainstorming creative ways to solve bus transportation issues. At a Brainerd School District Finance Committee meeting Thursday, the group directed administrators to keep an eye on the issues, and to think up w...

1340797+1205_bussing.jpg
Up to 150 calls come in each year, with parents asking for exceptions for their children, said Kala Henkenseifken, transportation coordinator for the Brainerd school district. Brainerd Dispatch file photo.

School district leaders will start brainstorming creative ways to solve bus transportation issues.

At a Brainerd School District Finance Committee meeting Thursday, the group directed administrators to keep an eye on the issues, and to think up ways to address them.

The discussion stems from an October School Board meeting, where mom Heather Hines asked that her 5-year-old daughter Brianna not be forced to walk to school, despite living too close to the building. Hines' daughter has severe asthma and is allergic to two outside molds, so the the 0.8 mile route one way is dangerous, she said.

Hines is not alone in her concerns. Up to 150 calls come in each year, with parents asking for exceptions for their children, said Kala Henkenseifken, transportation coordinator for the district.

---

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Current policy: Child living one mile from their zone-designated school can be bused.
  • Previous policy: Students living three-tenths of a mile from school qualified for busing.
  • State of Minnesota requires school districts to bus those who live two miles or more from school.

---

Some are concerned over their kids crossing dangerous streets, walking on busy roads without sidewalks, or the cold temperatures.

The district's transportation policy says any child living one mile from their zone-designated school can be bused.

The policy was altered in 2008. Before that, students who lived three-tenths of a mile from school qualified for busing.

When the policy was changed in 2008, 817 students who were previously eligible for busing no longer were.

The state requires school districts to bus those who live two miles or more from school.

The school district currently busses 4,850 students, including public, private and charter schools.

There are 809 students who live too close to school and don't qualify to ride the bus. Of those, 549 are elementary students.

ADVERTISEMENT

The School Board can change the transportation policy, but it would come with a price tag, Henkenseifken said.

If all students were allowed to ride the bus, another 7 ½ buses would need to be added, at a cost of an additional $317,000.

That's estimating that half of the current 809 who are currently ineligible to ride start taking the bus, Henkenseifken said.

If the district went back to the former policy, where students who lived three-tenths of a mile from school qualified for bussing, five buses would need to be added at a cost of $205,000.

That's estimating that half of the newly eligible start taking the bus, Henkenseifken said.

There's also more cost in staff, Henkenseifken said, as her office would have to re-route all 60 bus lines should more be added.

The district's transportation budget is about $3 million.

School board member Bob Nystrom said that although the district has a tight budget, the transportation issue needs to be addressed.

ADVERTISEMENT

School board member Tom Haglin suggested district leaders think of creative ways to bus students to school that wouldn't add more cost to the district.

He suggested a fee for families in the no-bus zone if they would like their child to get a ride, or possibly adding more common stops. The stops could be placed strategically in the current no-bus zone, so kids who would otherwise have to walk a not safe route to school, could instead walk to the common stop and get on the bus, he said.

There are currently 995 common stops in the district, where kids walk to a designated spot to be picked up by the bus.

Haglin also suggested the district turn to area transportation providers or community organizations to see if they have a solution.

"There's a need to transport kids. Maybe they can come up with something," he said. "There's a business opportunity for a company out there."

Nystrom urged the board to at least consider cutting the current one mile no bus zone to half a mile.

"I know the budget is pushed to the core now, but safety is of the utmost importance," he said.

In other committee news:

Approved the first revision of the budget for fiscal year 2015. The revised budget deficit is $933,841. There's a $750,247 increase in revenue and a $1,335,485 increase in expenses. Those expenses include an extra $630,180 in salaries, $96,970 in benefits, $277,782 in purchased services, $17,101 in supplies, $276,947 in capital expenditures, and $36,505 in other expenditures.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at jessie.perrine@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at www.twitter.com/brainerdnews .

What To Read Next
Who are the people being held in custody in Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties?
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Inmates in-custody in the Mille Lacs County jail in Milaca, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Hubbard County jail in Park Rapids, Minnesota