An informal nod was given to administrators to pursue a proposal to consolidate the number of sixth- through 12th-grade bus stops in the Hilliard City School District before the beginning of the next school year in August.

An informal nod was given to administrators to pursue a proposal to consolidate the number of sixth- through 12th-grade bus stops in the Hilliard City School District before the beginning of the next school year in August.

Assistant superintendent Tim Hamilton said during a school board meeting Monday night that by consolidating the bus stops, the district should be able to save about $150,000 toward the $3-million deficit remaining after a 6.9-mill operating levy was passed in November.

"Limiting the number of stops is going to reduce route time, fuel consumption, wear and tear on the buses and the reduction of bus driver salaries and benefits," said Hamilton.

Franklin said the district has about 150 people in the transportation department.

While the layoff of bus drivers will probably not happen, Hamilton said, hours and benefits will be reduced.

Pickup times will be more consistent, accidents minimized in neighborhoods where people park on both sides of the street or there are congestion problems, riding time reduced, later pickup times may occur and more bus stops will be located on main thoroughfares based on what they have learned so far, according to Hamilton and Jeff Franklin, the director of business affairs.

The proposal increases the distance between "cluster stops" in neighborhoods for the students at the secondary level.

"Cluster stops" have been occurring throughout the district for a number of years, but not to the extent they will be used under the new proposal.

The board of education did not take an official vote on the proposal, but president Denise Bobbitt told Hamilton, Franklin and transportation coordinator Terry Timlin to proceed.

The board will vote once the routes are determined for the coming school year.

In a press conference prior to the meeting and in a presentation during the meeting, Hamilton and Franklin said the consolidation proposal will make the bus routes more efficient and effective.

Currently, the district has 127 buses on the roads, but only four examples of how bus routes will change were provided to the board. The consolidation proposal continues to be a work in progress affecting both public and private schools in the district.

"We don't have them all done yet," Hamilton said.

Based on fuel prices of $2.25 per gallon, Hamilton said, they are showing a savings of $6,640 in the four examples. The administration also provided fuel prices from last summer to show that at $4 per gallon, the district can save $7,498 on the four routes.

"I think the good thing about this is we are going to touch, this summer, every route," said Franklin, after he and Hamilton shared the four examples.

Board member Doug Maggied wanted to know if the proposal calls for a reduction in the number of buses running routes.

Hamilton said it is a little early to ask the question and urged Maggied to ask again in August after Timlin, and his staff, refine the routes for the consolidation.

In the Golfview Woods neighborhood, Hamilton said, the current transportation plan calls for 12 stops. Under the new plan, there would be two stops, resulting in a reduction of 10 stops and saving 2.49 miles. This would save 17 minutes on the route. At the same time, he said, the student walking the longest distance in that neighborhood would traverse 0.7 of a mile.

Although the transportation proposal does not involve the elementary-grade levels, Franklin said, students from kindergarten to fifth grade who currently live within walk zones can traverse well over a mile and up to two miles to school.

State-mandated limits say grades six through eight may walk up to half of a mile, but high school busing is not required by the state.

"Transportation for kids, nine to 12 or any kid, trying to make sure they get to school, we would like to keep it available to them," Hamilton said.

The consolidation plan was first previewed during a school board retreat last June, when Hamilton and Timlin explained that they were re-evaluating "cluster stops."

Timlin said then that the district transported 9,549 students in the 2007-08 school year.

By reducing the number of stops alone, according to Bobbitt, the life of the vehicles should be prolonged.

She suggested Timlin will be better able to see the number of riders to the high school as the consolidation plan proceeds.

Board member Dave Lundregan said the administration should keep refining transportation, making it better and better every year.

He said he did not think that walking distances of 0.7 and 0.9 of a mile are unreasonable when compared to what the younger students, living in walk zones, walk.

"It is a huge undertaking," said board member Lisa Whiting, "but you are off to a good start."

Franklin said the district refills 20,000 gallons of fuel every seven to 10 days.

The proposal also includes the expansion of the satellite bus location at the district's Support Services Facility at 2140 Atlas St., located off Hilliard-Rome Road.