GOSHEN — In the wake of recent struggles to fund school transportation locally, one school district is looking at adding crossing guards and cutting bus drivers.
Robert Evans, Goshen Community School’s assistant superintendent of transportation and educational services, said hiring a few more crossing guards is much cheaper than running buses to pick up students.
“If we reduce the number of buses we have on the road, that would make up for the cost of the guards,” said Evans on May 13.
He added that the school corporation currently employs nine crossing guards at the cost of about $4,000 per guard per year. If the “no transportation” zones are expanded, the corporation might need to hire more guards to ensure kids can make it to school safely.
“If we are requiring kids to walk to school we need to make sure they have safe routes to school,” said Evans.
Paying for student transportation has been an issue for several years, according to Evans, but “this is the first year we’ve experienced severe cuts.”
Evans added that transportation is funded by revenue from local property taxes. The amount available has been steadily declining for the past several years because of tax caps.
“We are looking at a shortfall of $500,000 for calendar year 2013 and a $1.2 million shortfall for calendar year 2014,” said Evans.
He presented money-saving ideas to the Goshen School Board on May 13 that included expanding walk zones, creating “hubs” where groups of students could be picked up by buses and adding some crossing guards.
“Even if we do all these (proposed cuts), we will only be halfway there,” said Evans.
Board members did not take action on transportation issues at the meeting.
Jerry Hawkins, coordinator of business affairs for Goshen Community Schools, said May 14 that it looks likely Goshen will not be able to transport students at all in the future.
“I hope that doesn’t happen, but if we don’t get any legislative relief we can’t continue transportation,” said Hawkins.
He said that it’s also likely Goshen schools will be adding more crossing guards as fewer students take buses.
“Because these students may be walking to the hubs, depending on where the hubs are we may require more guards,” said Hawkins. “The reason we would have to add crossing guards is that we would be busing less students.”
No more guards needed in Elkhart
Elkhart Community Schools introduced revised walk zones in 2009 to help with transportation costs.
At that time, the school corporation decided to add four school-funded crossing guards to the 17 already paid for by the city of Elkhart. All of the 21 crossing guards help kids across busy streets inside the city limits.
Doug Hasler, executive director of support services at Elkhart Community Schools, said the corporation has no plans to add more crossing guards.
“There’s not really many other (places) within the school district where we would say
these kids in this neighborhood need to walk to school and we need to add a crossing guard to that area,” said Hasler.
Students who live in a walk zone are responsible for their own transportation to and from school.
“If a student is residing in a walk zone — as long as there’s not a safety issue — that student is not eligible for transportation to and from school each day,” said Hasler.
Walking not a possibility for Concord students
Concord Community Schools, another local school corporation dealing with cuts to transportation, does not employ any crossing guards.
“We have very few students who walk to school,” said Concord Superintendent Wayne Stubbs in an email. “Concord does not have many sidewalk areas for students to walk to their neighborhood schools. As a result, nearly all our students either ride the bus, drive themselves to school, or are dropped off and picked up by parents.”
Concord is currently working on a plan to help with transportation costs.