D102 Implements New $200 Charge to Bus Kindergarteners
The new transportation fee for the mid-day ride to Barnsdale Road School will serve to partially offset bus costs as the district plans the hiring of three bus monitors.
Kindergarten just got costlier for parents in District 102.
Beginning with the 2011-12 school year, parents of full-day kindergartners that will use one of the mid-day shuttle buses to Barnsdale Road School from Congress Park, Cossitt, and Ogden schools will need to pay a $200 “transportation fee.” The action was presented by John Segvich, assistant superintendant for finance, at Thursday's board of education meeting.
Forest Road School is adjacent to Barnsdale, so a bus is not needed and the fee will not be charged.
Segvich said the addition of the fee is due to the discontinuation by the special education department of using para-educators as bus monitors. Because it would be difficult to find anyone willing to work two 40-minute shifts per day to escort the kindergartners back and forth, the district plans to hire three full-time aides that will earn $12,000 to $15,000 annually.
According to Segvich, the cost of this year’s three shuttles, which transport 125 full-day students, totaled $44,473. If next year’s numbers were similar, the transportation fees would offset less than half of the total shuttle cost including the salary of the aides.
The administration asked for $300 per rider, but board president David May, who expressed concern that going from no fee to $300 was a big jump, reduced the fee to $200 in his motion.
A unanimous vote didn’t come without some concerns.
“Philosophically, it’s a struggle for us,” board member Dawn Aubert said, “because philosophically we’d all rather not have to charge for the bus.”
Board member Jennifer Comparoni worried that the fee might serve as a “barrier” for children of low-income families. Superintendant Warren Shillingburg, though, said the administration had a “gut feeling” that it won’t.
“We do not believe this will discourage many parents from participating in the program,” Shillingburg said.
The superintendant said the cost of daycare that would replace the second part of the day for many full-day parents would be much larger than the transportation fee. He also said that some districts charge for full-day kindergarten, and the transportation fee would be less than the total parents from those districts pay.
The reason for the quick decision, Shillingburg said, is because kindergarten orientation is Thursday, Feb. 3 and he wants to be able to tell next year’s parents about the fee from the get-go.
“This is probably not going to make it as nice of an orientation meeting, but I think we have to look seriously at our overall picture,” he said.
Board member Donald Sands said he thinks it’s a fair fee.
“I’d pay significantly more for the right to have a full day of much better education and continuous program,” Sands said. “Let’s recognize that there’s somewhere, if we don’t charge fees, else that it’s coming from—a reduction in some other program or an increase in taxes.”
Segvich said there will be payment plans available for parents who want to spread the cost out over the school year’s nine months. In addition, parents of students who qualify for free lunch would not pay the fee and those whose student qualifies for reduced lunch would pay half the fee.
Aubert was more comfortable with the plan by discussion’s end.
“I wouldn’t want kids that we would want to have a part of that program not to be accessible,” she said. “But if we have some vehicle in place to work with those families, that makes me feel a lot better.”