School officials rolled out a plan March 28 that, if approved, would revamp attendance boundaries for Groveport Madison elementary schools and restructure the district's middle school and junior high buildings.
Business Manager Larry Ricchi told the Groveport Madison Board of Education the changes would go far toward saving the district the $2 million it needs to cut from the budget next school year.
"As we evolve as a school district, it is important that we take those changes with the thought ... how do we better improve student education and services to our parents, how do we best use those taxpayer dollars that are currently providing those services, and is there a way that we can either protect services that we currently offering or wish to offer in the future by being more efficient as a school district," Superintendent Bruce Hoover said.
Currently, approximately 270 students in grades six and seven use six buses to attend Middle School North. Another 488 students in grades six and seven travel on 12 buses to Middle School South, and 484 eighth-grade students use 14 buses to attend the junior high school.
According to Ricchi, 1,242 students are being transported on 32 buses with an average of 39 students riding each bus.
The plan presented last week would establish three middle schools for students in grades six through eight and cut the number of buses to 27.
By dividing the school district into three geographical areas instead of two, the district is banking on buses covering a smaller area and picking up students in adjacent neighborhoods. Officials also anticipate that about 100 more students in eighth grade would walk to school, and those who do ride buses would have less travel time.
"Each bus is going to cover less square miles, reducing the time the bus runs, and that actually reduces the cost of the run," Ricchi said. "By going with three middle schools, all the eighth-graders in the Blacklick Estates area get to walk to school -- that makes them healthy and that's two buses right there."
Of the 1,368 students currently in sixth and seventh grade, about 292 would be changing schools under the new plan.
No specific proposals were presented last week for changing the district's elementary school attendance boundaries, although officials said 601 of the 2,643 students would be in a new building next year if the proposal is adopted.
Ricchi said the district hasn't looked at attendance boundaries for its six elementary schools since the late 1980s. There was no clear plan in place, he said, to assign students when they moved into new housing developments and that led to the current practice of enrolling them based on what bus drove by their home or placing them in whatever building had space.
As a result, he said, three subdivisions have students attending each of the six elementary schools.
District officials will be visiting the school buildings for discussions and feedback before the board of education votes on the changes May 9.
Charlie Boss of The Columbus Dispatch contributed to this story.