Tonganoxie USD 464 transportation department commended; current pay-to-ride fees debated
Melissa Ostermeyer opened her transportation report Monday night at the Tonganoxie USD 464 school board meeting with a poem from a Quinter bus driver.
The poem explains how bus driving sometimes can be a tedious and thankless job, but one that is well worth it.
“So, somebody does what nobody wants to do, for the love of everybody’s children drives their heart and their bus,” Ostermeyer read. “God bless the bus drivers. Anybody and everybody’s nobody is a real somebody. A somebody with a pilot’s performance and a captain’s honor.
“That makes everybody glad that somebody is a school bus driver.”
Ostermeyer recognized her bus drivers in attendance at the meeting and also gave a report of transportation’s current state and its needs. The district served cookies at the meeting as a show of appreciation for the bus drivers’ work.
The topic of transportation also started the meeting with a patron asking for a change in policy with the pay-to-ride program.
Mark Breuer said his family appreciates that the district offers the pay-to-ride service, which provides transportation to families living within 2.5 miles from a school.
But Breuer thinks the amount could be reduced.
His family pays $340 for each child, a cost he said seemed excessive, especially considering that his family pays for about 7 percent of the total revenue the district receives for the pay-to-ride program.
There are 122 students in the district who use the program, but 85 of them receive free and reduced lunch. The state does not allow districts to charge those families for such services. That leaves the families of the remaining 37 students covering that bill.
Breuer suggested putting a cap on the pay-to-ride rate per family as a way to increase participation and help alleviate traffic congestion at TES and TMS.
But Ostermeyer said buses are cramped as it is. Such a plan likely would require more buses.
The state requires transportation for students living beyond the 2.5-mile range at no cost to those families. And though USD 464 provides transportation for a fee for students living closer than that line, students living in nearby neighborhoods are not eligible.
Board president Dan Hopkins asked that the Breuer family and other patrons keep the dialogue going to try to help meet concerns of the pay-to-ride costs and traffic issues at TES and TMS.
During her presentation, Ostermeyer gave the school board an overview of the transportation department. The district’s fleet includes 19 65-passenger buses, two 77-passenger buses, one 54-passenger bus with a wheelchair lift, eight mini-tour buses (two with wheelchair lifts), one passenger car, four 10-passenger transit vans and four seven-passenger mini-vans used daily for special needs and specialty routes.
Buses range in model year from 2002 to 2016 and passenger vehicles 1999 through 2014.
Ostermeyer said the district has taken 298 activity trips on school vehicles from the beginning of the school year.
“That number just floors me,” Ostermeyer said. “I think that’s a lot.”
The transportation director said upcoming budget considerations should include adding two additional general education routes and another special needs route, and look into equipping buses with security cameras.
Other expenses would be a diesel fuel pump replacement ($13,000) and radio repeater tower equipment ($4,000).