Buses to after-school sites get review
By Reggie Ponder
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools officials are taking a close look at their practice of using school buses to transport students to after-school programs located outside their attendance district.
The Finance, Business and Technology Committee of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education discussed the issue at the committee’s meeting last week.
Buses already stop at child-care centers and after-school facilities if they are along the route for that bus. A key concern for school officials, however, are the buses transporting students beyond the attendance zone for their particular school in order to drop them off at an after-school program.
ECPPS Superintendent Larry Cartner reported to the committee that the school district currently is transporting 176 students to after-school activities. The school district has special arrangements with the Boys & Girls Club of the Albemarle, Albemarle Family YMCA and Girls Inc. to transport students to those sites for after-school programs.
Board of Education Chairwoman Sharon Warden asked district officials how much it costs the school district to transport those students to those sites for after-school activities.
ECPPS staff told board members the district’s transportation department uses a figure of $700 per student, per year.
When some board members pointed out that some — if not most — of the students would be riding a bus anyway even if not riding to the after-school program, staff said that considering additional costs such as additional time drivers spend on a particular route because of the after-school activities, the districtwide cost is at least $123,200 based on the $700-per-student figure while the total cost likely is even more.
Administrators noted that the additional cost that results from transporting students to after-school activities affects the district's transportation efficiency rating. The efficiency rating is important to local school transportation departments because it directly affects the state funding provided to the school district.
Assistant Superintendent Steve Lassiter acknowledged that the transportation of students to after-school activities has become more of an issue because the number of students involved has grown from 34 just a few years ago to the current 176.
The impact has become more significant, Lassiter said, and because the 12 school buses involved could be used to reduce ride times on other routes.
Cartner said the issue is coming up now because the school district has some routes that are longer than staff would like them to be.
Board member Sheila Williams said the route times and costs are significant concerns, while another major consideration is the benefit of having students in a structured program after school.
"It's just a lot to consider," Williams said.
Elizabeth Mitchell, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Albemarle, noted in an interview that the club does not operate its own bus. She called the transportation service provided by the school district “critical” to how the club functions.
“It’s critical,” Mitchell said. “That is how our kids get to the program.”
But Mitchell said she understands the pressure on the school district to contain costs in transportation and other areas.
“I understand the flip side,” Mitchell said. “I understand that school systems are strapped” for funds.
Mitchell said a representative from the ECPPS Transportation Department had called her to set up a meeting for this week to discuss the school district’s concerns. She said she hopes the district can work out a way to continue transporting children to the club.
“It’s very nice that they do provide this transportation for us,” Mitchell said.
Denauvo Robinson, vice chairman of the school board and chairman of the Finance, Business and Technology Committee, said school officials plan to research the topic further. Staff will come back to the school board with recommendations, he said.