Jones takes Northridge to court over bus-route run timing
Now it's up to the judge to decide.
Northridge Local Schools treasurer Britt Lewis and board member Doug Hart appeared with Northridge district parent Bill Jones in front of Licking County Common Pleas Judge Tom Marcelain on Sept. 7, asking him to decide whether Northridge should be forced to retime bus routes to Liberty Christian, Gahanna Christian and St. Matthew schools.
Lewis said that the Ohio Department of Education officially agreed that timed runs have proven that it takes longer than 30 minutes to transport students to each nonpublic school; therefore, under state law, Northridge is not obligated to transport students who live within the district to those schools.
Jones, whose children attend Liberty Christian, maintains that Petermann Transportation, with which Northridge contracts for bus service, is manipulating the timed routes to make certain they are at least slightly more than 30 minutes in an effort to save the time and expense of transporting children to nonpublic schools.
As of Friday morning (Sept. 7), Marcelain had not rendered a decision but said he could not force Petermann to use a driver of the parents' choice, should the routes be retimed. Petermann Transportation supervisor Pam Cheadle was driving the routes.
Edward Otrowski Jr., an attorney representing Jones, said the timing of the routes was not completed within the guidelines set forth in an agreement with the Ohio Department of Education. He said at least one of the timed runs was begun at Northridge High School during a particularly chaotic time in the morning, thus adding time to the run. Otrowski said all his client is asking for is a fair run and for the district to conduct the run in the manner agreed upon.
Dane Gaschen, an attorney representing Northridge, said the district had complied with the agreement and that run after run has showed that routes to all three school are more than 30 minutes. He said the ODE agrees with the findings.
"We believe the matter is taken care of already," he said.
Otrowski said the start time of the timed route "makes a world of difference," and if the route had started at 7:40 a.m. instead of 7:15 a.m., when the high school bus area is chaotic, some of the runs would be less than 30 minutes.
"We don't know what would or wouldn't have happened," Gaschen said. "To say it would've been different is pure conjecture at this point."
Otrowski said the lack of motivation is prompting frustration.
"What's frustrating is, we're talking literally seconds," he said.
He said his client believes at least the route to Liberty Christian could be completed in less than 30 minutes if the district were motivated to do so.
Following the hearing, Gaschen said he didn't know when Marcelain would issue a ruling but assumed it would be soon. He said his client is "looking for ways to save money and put money back into the district," and transporting nonpublic students is extremely expensive.
Otrowski said Northridge "superficially" complied with the agreement, and Marcelain would decide one of two ways.
"Either we get another timing run, or we don't," he said.