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School bus officials see last minute changes to schedules

Park Rapids Area School District hopes parents will give more notice when switching bus plans.

Cindy Leach, transportation supervisor for the district, attended Monday night's Park Rapids Area School Board meeting to discuss the transportation policy.

She wanted input from the board before considering any changes to the policy.

"We do try to accommodate families as much as possible in the district," Leach said. "I think this is an issue that has grown with society."

There are extra situations now where kids go to daycare, to their grandparents and other places, she said.

The Minnesota state statute says districts are required to take kids to and from home or daycare. A bus route has been cut in the district so Leach was wondering if the policy should be looked at further.

"Do we want to drop them off at work locations, do we want to take them to karate, piano, dance class?" Leach asked.

It has been a practice that the district takes students to day care, home and in some cases a work place. It isn't outlined in the district's policy, though.

"We have past practice but a policy, no," said board member Karol Savage.

Savage said she doesn't want the district buttoning down so tight that students leave the district, but rather look at the guidelines.

Leach would like to have parents give more notice when it comes to requesting their child be dropped off somewhere else.

"We can have 30 calls easily in an afternoon, sometimes at 3:05," Leach said.

Parents are asking if their child can go home with a friend and then the next day go to their grandparents, she said.

Board member Gary Gauldin said he was concerned about verifying that it is a parent calling. Leach said she does try to verify calls when something sounds suspicious.

"I think we need to be careful of shutting the gates entirely," said board chairwoman Sherry Safratowich. She also doesn't want to lose kids over a busing issue.

Some districts require advanced notice in writing, Leach said. But there are emergencies that require exceptions.

"To me, it isn't so much that the workplace is an issue, it's the multiple spots," Leach said. "It's 300 kids with seats on two buses ... how many routes do we do at what expense to accommodate all this?"

Superintendent Glenn Chiodo said there should be some restrictions on the notice. But he said anything that has been done in the past needs to be done now, as far as dropping off students at certain businesses.

Beyond tightening the rules about timely notice, Chiodo doesn't think the policy should be changed.

"I think we need to look at safety issues for Cindy, too," board member David Otterness said.

"I think most parents would be thankful that you are taking those steps to ensure their child's safety," board member Stephanie Carlson added.

Leach and Savage will work on drafting a letter to send out to parents saying a certain amount of notice is needed for bus changes and who to give notice to. A letter will be brought to the school board at the Sept. 21 meeting.

In other business, the board:

-Approved hiring Donna Sindt as a bus driver for bus 25, effective Sept. 8.

-Approved hiring Charles Arvik as a bus driver for bus 31, effective Sept. 1.

-Approved hiring Brianne Morris as an assistant girls tennis coach.

-Approved hiring Juliann Kjenaas as a long-term paraprofessional substitute.

-Heard from John Schumacher, activities director, about a batting cage being constructed at the Century softball/baseball fields. He said the batting cage was donated.

-Approved a bus lease with Blue Bird Traxis Financial Group.

-Had a closed session to discuss strategy for negotiations.