The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

January 3, 2013

Ashtabula Area City Schools revert to state-minimum busing

By SHELLEY TERRY - sterry@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Reducing busing of students to the minimum amount required by the state went into effect Wednesday in the Ashtabula Area City School District.

That means the district completely eliminated transportation for students in grades 9-12, and for students in grades K-8 who live less than two miles from their school.

Acting Superintendent Patrick Colucci asked parents for patience.

“We have a larger volume of cars needing to get in and out (of the school parking lot),” he said. “We have a nice system of drop off and pick up in place, so we are just asking for patience.”

Jessica Shumaker, who walked her two children early Wednesday from Bonniewood to the Ashtabula Lakeside Elementary Campus on Wade Avenue, was not happy.

“It was freezing cold, no sidewalks and the kids’ noses were running,” she said. “When we got to the campus, there were no crossing guards, no teachers, nobody.”

Shumaker said school officials should have stopped busing in the spring or fall, not when it is 18 degrees outside. She walked with her children, but she saw other young children walking alone to school, she said.

“We had to walk far in the snow in the middle of winter,” she said. “We need sidewalks.”

 Reverting to the state minimum requirement in transportation will save the district $750,000, and allow the school district to end the year in the black, according to the resolution passed by the school board in September.

Now-retired Superintendent Joseph Donatone recommended the reductions in light of the loss of state and federal funding and the repeated failure of a five-year, 6.4-mill emergency property tax levy for operating costs.

The next big cut will be the loss of all spring sports at Lakeside Junior High School.

The school board also has agreed to a handful of other mid-year reductions, including turning off more lights at night and weekends, and to discontinue the district newsletter. These cuts will save the district $800,000, and there are more cuts coming.

Colucci presented the school board with a proposed $1 million cost-cutting plan for the 2013-2014 school year at its Dec. 19 meeting.

The proposed plan will lay off seven more teachers, reduce hours for library and administrative aids, eliminate all ninth-grade sports and make additional slashes in busing.

The school board will vote on Colucci’s proposed expenditure reduction plan and reduction in force at its January meeting.

These chops are in addition to the cut backs already made by Donatone.

“There are parents who care (about the reductions) and are writing letters to state legislators to change school funding,” Colucci said, noting several of the parents attended the December meeting.

The parents plan to help pass a levy, slated for spring. If the levy passes, it will thwart some of the reductions, he said.