Board reluctant to stop after-school transport
By Reggie Ponder
Monday, November 27, 2017
Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools officials are reluctant to discontinue bus service to nonprofit after-school programs despite the pressure it puts on the school district’s budget.
ECPPS staff will meet a second time next month with representatives of three local nonprofits to discuss possible ways to ease the financial burden on the school district while continuing to offer students bus transportation to after-school programs the nonprofits operate.
Regardless of cost, though, members of the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Board of Education seem unwilling to abandon bus service to the nonprofits.
At a work session of school board committees last week, ECPPS Transportation Director Toni Floyd reported on meetings she held with representatives of Boys & Girls Club of the Albemarle, Girls Inc. of the Albemarle, and Albemarle Family YMCA to discuss the cost of transporting students to those sites for after-school programs.
Floyd said she has a heartfelt appreciation for the work the groups do with students. However, the district’s transport of students to the groups’ facilities does have a financial impact on the schools’ budget, she said.
A handout that Floyd provided to board members shows that tranportation to the three after-school sites costs ECPPS $76,933 a year.
The district’s school buses currently drop students off at for-profit child care centers if those facilities are located along a bus’s regular route. The district goes beyond that policy for the three nonprofits, however. Buses will transport students to the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and Girls Inc. even if the facilities are not on the bus’s route.
That extra driving affects what’s known as the school district transportation department’s “efficiency rating,” which in turn affects how much state funding the district receives. Districts with high efficiency ratings get more transportation dollars; districts with lower efficiency ratings get fewer of those dollars.
The ECCPS transportation district’s current efficiency rating, according to the state, is 70 percent, and the after-school bus service to the nonprofits is a factor in that lower efficiency rating, Floyd said.
Board member Barry Overman asked Floyd how much of the 30 percent efficiency deficit she attributes to the after-school transportation. Floyd said it was between 3 percent and 5 percent.
“Certainly there are other things that affect it,” Floyd said, adding the cost of repair parts and the need to optimize all routes are also factors. “It didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be fixed overnight.”
According to a report on the transportation staff’s meetings with the three nonprofits, getting the groups to help pay some of the extra transportation costs could be problematic.
School transportation staff met Oct. 24 with representatives of Girls Inc. of the Albemarle, which serves 56 ECPPS students.
“The organization expressed the concern that if the school system did not provide transportation, it could possibly close their doors,” the report states. “Furthermore, additional fees would be incurred by the parents.”
The meeting with representatives of the Albemarle Family YMCA occurred Oct. 31. Representing the YMCA were Jamie Koch, executive director, and Shannon Purvis, program director.
The YMCA representatives indicated the organization provides swimming lessons to all ECPPS elementary schools at no cost — roughly 425 kindergarteners. The YMCA representatives said the organization currently uses two mini buses to transport 53 students. Picking up additional students would pose challenge, they said, because the YMCA also provides services to kids in Gates, Hertford, Camden counties.
On Nov. 1 a meeting was held with Elizabeth Mitchell, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club.
“The organization indicated that they would be interested in calculating the exact cost for transporting students to the Boys & Girls club,” the report states. “We were informed that in another district the organization pays the driver’s salary and reimburses the district for mileage. They expressed wanting to deepen and broaden their relationship with Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools by more open communication, involvement in the schools, and possible partnership with our Child Nutrition program.”
The report lists the following options for after-school transportation to the nonprofits:
Option 1: The district would continue to provide transportation this school year with the understanding that ECPPS would only provide in-district service in subsequent years to the extent that seats are available on the bus. This would eliminate the penalty on the efficiency rating for running routes for which the school district receives no funding.
Option 2: The district would continue to provide transportation this school year at no cost to the agencies with the understanding that the agencies would pay ECPPS for transportation beginning in 2018-19. This option would not address the negative impact to the district’s efficiency rating.
Option 3 : Agencies would pay for service (driver, bus cost, and mileage) in 2018-19 and transportation would be discontinued beginning in 2019-20.
Option 4: The district would provide in-district transportation on existing bus runs and use activity buses to provide transportation to out-of-district agencies. The cost for the driver and bus would be paid by the after-school care organization. There are afternoons when all activity buses are checked out and there would not be buses available to run these routes.
Overman said he appreciated the options being presented but was not prepared to support any of them. He said the board has worked to get community partners that provide services that directly affect student achievement, and needs to find a way to keep the arrangement working because it needs those partnerships.
Board member Virginia Houston echoed Overman’s thoughts.
“Those are my concerns also,” Houston said.
More kids need to attend after-school programs, not fewer, Overman added.
Board member Pam Pureza also said she would find it a hard-sell to discontinue the service until all the other factors contributing to the lower efficiency rating had been addressed.
“I just can’t see cutting it right now,” she said.
ECPPS staff will be meeting with the three agencies again in December and will report back to the school board afterward.