Johnstown, Northridge schools
Boards agree to revisit busing to private schools
One might call it textbook democracy.
A school board takes an action. Parents unite against that action, with facts and figures. The school board reverses its action, and the two sides agree to solve a problem together.
Such was the case when the Johnstown-Monroe Board of Education voted 4-0 during a special meeting July 18 to rescind a resolution declaring transportation of students to nonpublic schools as impractical. Board member John Davis was absent.
Johnstown district administrators will work with Northridge Local administrators to find practical solutions.
Johnstown-Monroe treasurer Tamara Woods was clear, however, that the situation is not resolved and the board would have to revisit its policies during its Aug. 20 meeting. She said the districts' administrators would schedule a time to meet soon to discuss the situation.
"There just needed to be some clarification," she said.
The issue began with both the Northridge and Johnstown boards voted to eliminate transportation to nonpublic schools, including Liberty Christian Academy in Pataskala, St. Matthew School and Gahanna Christian Academy in Gahanna, St. Francis, Newark Catholic and Blessed Sacrament in Newark and Granville Christian Academy in Granville. Northridge's board voted to eliminate busing to Liberty Christian, St. Matthew and Gahanna Christian, and Johnstown's board voted to eliminate busing to all of them.
At the time, Northridge board member Doug Hart said, the district was looking at the cost of transporting students who live within the district to nonpublic schools and found that Northridge was paying thousands of dollars per student for its buses to transport those students.
Cincinnati-based Petermann Ltd. provides the transportation to nonpublic schools.
Hart said the expenses were great enough to hamper Northridge's ability to hire new teachers as some retire.
Johnstown board member Jim Dodderer agreed then.
"It was a fiscally responsible vote (to eliminate busing)," he said previously.
Following the July 18 vote, Dodderer expressed a softening of the district's position.
"It was a very productive meeting," he said, adding that board members have learned that some of the nonpublic schools to which Johnstown and Northridge have been transporting students are willing to adjust their schedules to accommodate the Johnstown-area students.
"We're going to look at it again, and we're going to work with Northridge," Johnstown board member Amy Ramey said. "We want what's best for all the students."
Johnstown resident Mike Rush, who had helped lead efforts to challenge the boards' votes to eliminate busing, told ThisWeek he is pleased with the boards' willingness to work with parents, commending them for revisiting the issue to come up with a sound solution.
"I'm extremely grateful that they rescinded the ruling on impractical busing," Rush said. "Both school boards looked closely at new facts presented by parents, and both school boards acted accordingly to maintain busing."
Rush said he looks forward to working with both districts to provide sensible, economical busing that would be a win-win for students and the districts.
Ramey said the fact that the two districts had acted differently didn't help matters. If one district stops transporting these students, it doubles the financial burden for the other district because the routes no longer are shared, and it places a hardship on the parents of the students in both districts because parents then are solely responsible for transporting their children to the nonpublic schools, she said.
Ramey said that between the concerns of the parents and the scheduling concessions the nonpublic schools are willing to make, board members decided it would be best to revisit the issue before making any final decisions.
"It's turned out to be a good thing," she said.
Still, Hart said, costs must be eliminated somehow.
"If someone has an idea of how to reduce the cost, we'd look at it," he said. "The Johnstown meeting was very encouraging."
He said the Northridge board already has directed its administrators to work with the nonpublic schools and with Johnstown administrators.