RCAPS eliminates transportation program as part of budget cutting

REED CITY — “The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round ...”

But not throughout the Reed City Area Public Schools district.

Not for the coming year.

Wheels on RCAPS buses will stop spinning soon following a decision by the district Board of Education Monday evening totally eliminating the transportation program as part of continuing budget cutting.

There will be no busing. No transportation to and from school.

None — except for state mandated Special Education transportation, and busing to and from the Career Center.

“I would best describe this move as ‘extremely drastic action.’” reported district superintendent Steven Westhoff.

“We will have no transportation program beyond that which is required by law.

“We have eliminated our transportation program. This isn’t some kind of budgeting threat.

“It’s been done.”

Westhoff noted that the move followed lengthy and sometimes impassioned discussion at the Board meeting, but was unanimous when it came to a vote.

“The decision came down to a choice,” he pointed out.

“Do we want to keep class size low and continue to employ teachers and para-pros, or do we cut another program in order to save $1.6 million.

“The Board opted to do everything they could to preserve the quality of classroom education in our district.

“The savings from budget cutting had to come from elsewhere - the transportation program.”

The district actually made cuts for total savings of $1.276 million.

n Elimination of the transportation program - $1 million

n Elimination of one-half a monitor position - $9,519

n Elimination of a mechanic’s position - $52,869

n Elimination of a coop maintenance position - $22,995

n A speculated recovery of some per-student funding - $226,500

The total savings of $1.276 million will preserve jobs for seven para-pros and six teachers that were being considered for layoff.

The certified teaching staff that might have been laid off would have included an elementary physical education instructor, a third grade teacher, one librarian, one alternative ed teacher, a seventh grade language arts position, and either a fifth grade or high school level language arts teacher.

“We want to maintain the quality of education we offer students in the Reed City district,” continued Westhoff.

“That creates, in effect, a trade off.

“Something had to go.”

At this point, there are 14 different “runs” in the RCAPS transportation program.

The district has some students up to 13-14 miles from the district’s ‘campus.’

“Some parents are going to have some very difficult decisions to make,” acknowledged Westhoff.

“They are going to need to transport their students someplace - either into our schools or elsewhere.

“We will do everything in our power to make it worth their while to stay in our district.”

Westhoff noted elimination of the transportation program was a “losing sleep” decision.

Board members expressed concerns over the potential loss of even more students to the district as parents searched for alternative transportation answers - including transferring to other districts.

“We are very concerned about this possibility,” said Westhoff. “We actually anticipate the possible loss of some 50 students but also hope to gain some students as parents realize that smaller class size is more important than busing.

“In dropping transportation, we decided in favor of quality education and reasonable class size rather than elimination of staff and larger class sizes.

“Still, when you cut budgets, there are going to be qualitative and quantitative losses someplace or the other.”

The district will not be getting rid of buses at this point.

“We want to keep our options open,” said Westhoff. “However, the Board recognizes that upon elimination of this program, it will be very difficult - if not impossible - to recreate a transportation program of this size.

“The cost to start up again would simply be prohibitive.

“This is it.

“We had a choice - the quality of education, or transportation.

“The decision was made.”

At this stage, Westhoff says there is no place else to cut budgets.

“From here on out any adjustments of our annual budget will be in staffing positions,” he said.

“We will need to cut teaching jobs.”