Along with expected reductions in staff, eliminations of classes and changes to the way extracurricular activities are funded, a variety of changes in how the Pickerington Local School District provides bus services are likely in store.

Along with expected reductions in staff, eliminations of classes and changes to the way extracurricular activities are funded, a variety of changes in how the Pickerington Local School District provides bus services are likely in store.

No decisions have been made, but at its Nov. 16 meeting, the Pickerington Board of Education signaled that a number of cuts to the district's traditional bus services can be expected by the next school year.

Lisa Reade, the board's transportation liaison, rolled out a number of options currently on the table for cutting the district's transportation costs, which for the 2010-11 school year are expected to be in excess of $5.28-million.

The reductions are needed, district officials said, in response to the failure of Issue 3 on Nov. 2. The 8-mill replacement operating levy was unofficially defeated by 223 votes. Had it passed, it would have generated an additional $7.586-million.

However, its failure means the district must cut at least $9-million from its operating budget for the 2011-12 school year, and student busing is a primary target for some of those reductions.

"It's a painful journey for all of us, but based on the levy results of Nov. 2, the district has a legal obligation to balance its budget," PLSD Superintendent Karen Mantia said.

Numerous potential changes proposed by Dave Decsman, transportation consultant for the PLSD, include expanding the concept of "user fees" for students being bused for extracurricular activities and field trips, consolidating bus stops and possibly reducing the number of buses in the district's fleet by as many as 11.

According to Reade, each bus that's eliminated from the fleet will reduce costs by more than $57,000.

The district also will look at the possible expansion of school "walk zones."

Currently, the district provides busing to students living within one mile of their respective schools, but Reade said Ohio law states districts do not have to extend busing to students living within a two-mile radius of their schools.

Prior to the start of the 2010-11 school year, the district hedged on a plan to eliminate busing to all kindergarten, elementary and middle school students living within a mile of their schools. At the time, officials said the move would have saved at least $20,000.

Reade said the district also will look at how it transports students to extracurricular activities. One proposal would include reducing the number of athletes taken to road games.

"We're not obligated to transport our athletes to and from events," she said. "One of the things we could do to (reduce) our pay-to-participate fees is to take out some of the sports transportation.

"It's not going to be an easy thing and it's not going to make everyone happy, but I do think we can be creative in the way we approach extracurriculars," she said.

If busing for athletic events is reduced, Reade said, coaches certified to transport students could do so by van, and parents also might be permitted to drive students to events as long as liability issues are addressed.

The district also will seek to consolidate its bus routes in order to reduce mileage by consolidating pick-up and drop-off locations, Reade said.

"It's possible to eliminate some routes," she said. "That's something we have not done in the past, but we almost did it this year."

Additionally, the district will consider reducing the number of "bus monitors" employed to ride on buses for special-needs students. Reade said those monitors are paid $19 an hour to address any behavioral issues that arise on buses, but some routes involve students who traditionally have not posed any problems.