From Superintendent Mike Murray: In the spring of 2010, I made a series of recommendations to the Board of Education to position ourselves to deal with the current budget crisis in Michigan. The decision to eliminate busing and allow Bay Area Transportation Authority (BATA) to come in and take over transporting students in our area was largely an economic one. At the community forum in January, the public that was represented clearly stated their number one priority in our school district was to preserve small class size. The $600,000 spent on busing each year equates to between 7 and 8 teachers. The public made it clear that as important as busing is, what is most important is what happens in the classroom. Based upon the input, we struggled to balance the budget without making the cuts that would be detrimental to our students.
The decision to drop transportation from our budget was based in part on the fact that a public transportation system already existed in Leelanau County, which receives Federal, State and local reimbursement. A public school system does not receive financial help for its transportation system. Money that Suttons Bay Public Schools spends on transportation comes directly out of the dollars allocated in what is called the foundation allowance, which is the operational money that is given to us to educate our students. An exploration of this idea with BATA, who was receptive to helping out in our situation, went through an exhaustive study of the legal aspects of the situation, the financial aspects of the situation, the public concerns that would arise over a change in our transportation system, and the personnel issues involved. Each step along the way BATA proved that they were sincere in their help in providing a safe and secure environment for our students. This situation would appear to be a winning relationship because their reimbursement is based upon ridership. By adding our students to their pickup schedule, it will tremendously increase their ridership in Leelanau County, enabling them to provide more extensive service. By providing an extensive service in this area and providing a ridership base they are fulfilling a part of the grand vision for this area. Additionally, as we have a significant population which is aging, at some point many of our county residents will face the situation where they will no longer have a driver license but will want to maintain their independence living in their home; this robust transportation system will help them.
With the safety of our young people as a top priority, BATA installed five to six cameras on each bus to assist the driver with checks at each stop. The cameras are in the front of the bus, behind the bus, at the sides of the bus, and the inside of each bus. Because public transportation is not exclusive to just students, the use of the cameras on the buses will help the drivers monitor behavior and interactions on the bus.The bus routes match very closely the routes that SBPS ran in the past. In designing the routes, BATA tried to eliminate, as much as possible, young students having to cross the road to catch their bus. The buses will use four-way flashers when they pull off the road to pick up or drop off students but they will not have the capabilities of stopping traffic. Schools have the authority to deal with students in transit to and from school whether that is on a school bus or not. For instance; Students who live close by school and are walking to school, if disciplinary issues occur they can still be dealt with by the school. The same would be true for riding public transportation.
To see the routes, please click here. Please forward any comments on the routes to firstname.lastname@example.org. This service will be provided to our district's kids at NO cost to you. If you have questions regarding what else the school and community are doing to ensure the safe transport of students please contact your school principal ( email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org ) or Superintendent Mike Murray ( email@example.com .)
Here are several articles in the RECORD-EAGLE on these changes:
You can find additional detailed information on the problems with school funding in Michigan by clicking here.