The Southwest Licking School District is cutting nearly $2 million from its budget over the next two years, but in the best interest of students and families, the board voted 3-0 during the Feb. 21 board meeting to simplify busing mainly for kindergarten students.
Board members Cindy Zaino and Roger Zeune did not attend the meeting.
The measure approved eliminates transfers to shuttle buses. The change, district officials said, is necessary to improve the quality of education for kindergarten students.
Superintendent Robert Jennell said the change would likely cost the district an additional $50,000.
As far as kindergarten is concerned, "We need to go further," said Jennell, yet all day, every day classes are not yet an option.
He recommended maintaining half day, every day kindergarten classes, but students need to spend more time with teachers, particularly as students prepare for the Third Grade Reading Guarantee. The guarantee is a state mandate that all third-graders should read at grade level by third grade or be held back.
Jennell said the best solution is to cut down the time students spend on buses.
Currently, kindergarten students who live in Pataskala and Etna are shuttled to Kirkersville Elementary School.
However, they stop at Pataskala and Etna first to transfer to a shuttle bus, which is time consuming.
Jennell said transporting kindergartners and other elementary students who are bused away from their home elementary schools directly to Kirkersville would give kindergartners 20 minutes more time with their teachers per day.
"I'm moving in the wrong direction (economically), but I think it's better for kids," he said.
Board member Don Huber said the 20 minutes per day extra adds up to 60 hours-nearly two full weeks-of extra class time per year.
"We're eager to cut costs, but we're more eager to serve families," Huber said.
He said students would be picked up from parallel routes and transported directly to school.
In the evening, students would go directly home, as well. He said it's good for parents and students and cuts down on confusion.
"You can't do that without spending more money," Huber said.
He said all three board members present at the Feb. 21 meeting agreed eliminating transfers was a reasonable move, despite the extra cost.
Huber said he doubted the change would be implemented until next school year. "We're already into the second semester," he said.