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Berea School District transportation audit offers ways to streamline busing

BEREA, Ohio — A transportation audit authorized by the Berea City School District offers ways to reduce busing costs and improve overall efficiency.

Based on pre-pandemic district bus routes, Ohio School Boards Association transportation consultant Pete Japikse presented his findings to the Berea Board of Education at its May 3 work session.

Rider eligibility zones, empty seats, time management and special education transportation were evaluated.

The district policy regarding minimum distances children must live from school to qualify to ride a bus is not being followed, Japikse noted.

“You’re not really adhering to the one-mile zone for the elementary schools, and there are too many exceptions (i.e. special requests),” he said.

He added that the middle school zone is supposed to be 1.5 miles, “and the same exceptions happened.”

“That means you’re transporting more students than you plan to,” he said.

He recommended reevaluating all bus stop assignments and eligibility zones, as well as condensing bus stops to reduce route times. Students might have to walk a little farther to catch the bus, he said.

“The yellow school bus is a form of mass transit,” Japikse stressed. “It’s not individualized transportation.”

Students scheduled to ride but who consistently didn’t were described as “ghost riders.”

“In general, the number of students scheduled on each bus is higher than the number of students actually riding it,” he said. “We can’t minimize the bus count if you have seats empty because of ghost riders.”

Japikse suggested that bus drivers take attendance.

“When students don’t ride for some period of time … then you take action,” he advised. “You take them off the roster. If something changes, the parent can notify the district to resume the service.”

He said the school district “provides more customized routing service for special education students to individualized placements than any other (similar) district.”

“You absolutely do not want to limit the best education for a special needs child, but are there ways a child can access an individualized service that isn’t quite as far away from the district?” Japikse asked.

“It’s a very delicate conversation, and we don’t want to trample on anyone’s rights,” he added. “But we also, as a district, have the right to make sound placement decisions.”

The school board will hold more discussions about the audit before determining if any actions will be taken.

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