Lanesborough School Spins Wheels In Bus DebateBy Andy McKeever
07:50AM / Tuesday, March 18, 2014
The Lanesborough School Committee met on Monday to discuss if there were ways to reduce busing costs.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — One cost of living in a rural environment is $32,000 to bus three children up a dirt hill.
The School Committee members took a look at busing costs — nearly double that of counterpart Williamstown but with fewer students — to see if they could save some money. An all-wheel-drive van and four large, yellow school buses make up the fleet, but few students this year utilize the van.
On a section of North Main Street, three students take the van home, up a road the bus company calls "treacherous."
"If you remove the van, they would all have to walk a mile and a half," said Jeff Packer, whose two sons and a daughter utilize the van.
The question stemmed from Chairman Robert Barton, who asked the superintendent to look into eliminating the van and instead have the buses travel up North Main Street. Barton said ideally, the yellow buses could make it up the mile and a half and turn around at the Garrity Farm. Town trucks already turn around there and Barton said Garrity would allow the buses to as well.
"The issue we're facing is that it costs the school $32,000 a year to run that van," Barton said. "[But] we don't want to put the Packer kids out in the cold."
Superintendent Rose Ellis said the school has already reduced buses but she would be willing to look at the numbers again. However, the van serves duel purposes.
Ellis said the van is the only all-wheel-drive vehicle in the fleet and during the winter and spring, North Main isn't in good condition — prompting the bus company's "treacherous" description. When the school has to transport children needing an individualized education program, the van also is used.
Ellis said there may be two students with IEPs coming to the school next year. If the school eliminated the van and a student needing transportation comes to the school, they then would have to contract out at a much higher price, she said.
"It's a gamble," said School Committee member James Moriarty.
Barton said transportation seems to be a spot where the school could look at saving money by reducing buses or changing routes. Ellis said she can talk with the bus company for the next school year but that it is much trickier than one would expect.
Ellis said there are state laws regulating how far students can walk and that spots on the bus must be available to all students in a certain area whether they use it or not. The school has already "scaled back" the number of buses because of declining enrollment, but she will look at the numbers again to see if yet another bus could be reduced.